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Exelon Projects Weak Year EPS View

By Melodie Warner Exelon Corp. (EXC) forecast full-year earnings below Wall Street's expectations as the wholesale power plant operator faces continued challenges amid low U.S. natural gas prices. In presentation slides released ahead of its Thursday analyst meeting, Exelon said it expects 2012 adjusted operating earnings of $2.55 to $2.85 a share, while analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters most recently estimated per-share earnings at $2.98. Exelon owns Illinois utility Commonwealth Edison, but its largest business is operating power plants across the U.S. and selling the electricity on the wholesale market. Historically low U.S. natural gas prices have forced wholesale power prices lower, while warm winter weather cut energy demand. In March, the largest operator of nuclear plants in the U.S. completed its acquisition of Constellation Energy Group Inc., owner of Baltimore Gas & Electric, Pennsylvania utility PECO as well as a fleet of nuclear power plants and a retail power business. The company's guidance includes earnings from Constellation Energy and BGE. Exelon said it plans to identify additional cost management opportunities within the combined company, use project financing for renewable opportunities and maintain flexibility on the timing of generation growth projects. Last month, Exelon reported its first-quarter earnings dropped 70% amid costs related to the Constellation acquisition, while mild weather, weak demand and low power prices contributed to a 5.4% revenue decline. Shares were trading at $37.42 premarket, down 3 cents. The stock has fallen 14% so far this year. Write to Melodie Warner at melodie.warner@dowjones.com

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