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Dominion 1Q Net Rises 3.1% On Lower Costs, Virginia Power

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Dominion Resources Inc.'s (D) first-quarter earnings rose 3.1% as the energy company reported lower overhead and a boost from its Virginia power business. For the current quarter, the company sees per-share earnings of 55 cents to 65 cents, shy of estimates from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who recently saw earnings of around 67 cents a share. Dominion's performance has stumbled in recent quarters, largely due to slides in its merchant generation business. Merchant generators sell power on the open market as opposed to at regulated rates. They have recently struggled with weak prices on the wholesale market, as natural gas prices have dropped. Dominion posted a profit of $494 million, or 86 cents a share, up from $479 million, or 82 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding write-downs of utility and merchant stations and other items, earnings fell to 86 cents from 93 cents a share. In January, the company predicted adjusted earnings of 85 cents to $1 a share. The company said the decrease in adjusted earnings was largely due to warmer-than-normal weather in the regulated electric service territory and lower merchant generation margins, despite lower operations and maintenance expenses, higher contributions from unregulated energy marketing operations and a lower tax rate. At its merchant generation operations, profit dropped 15%. The Virginia power business, which operates utilities in Virginia and North Carolina, posted an 11% profit jump. Shares of the company, which affirmed its full-year guidance, were up 1.5% in premarket trading to $52. -By Kristin Jones; Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2208;

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