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Southern 4Q Net Up 71% On Lower Costs

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Southern Co.'s (SO) fourth-quarter profit rose 71% as the southeastern U.S. utility benefited from lower fuel and purchased power costs and other expenses. However, revenue missed expectations as sales volume declined and performance was hit by weather that was closer to normal than last year. The operator of power utilities in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi had benefited from stronger industrial demand in recent quarters as production improves from slumping levels in the recession. The company recently said it is continuing to see an economic recovery in its markets, but at a slower pace than expected. Southern, one of the largest U.S. utilities, reported a profit of $261 million, or 30 cents a share, up from $153 million, or 18 cents a share, a year earlier. The company in October expected 29 cents. Revenue fell 2% to $3.7 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters most recently forecast $4.01 billion. Fuel and purchased power costs were down 13% and nonfuel operations and maintenance expenses fell 5.1%. Total energy sales, including wholesale sales, decreased 49%. Kilowatt-hour sales to retail customers were down 5.5%, including a 13% drop in residential-electricity sales. Shares closed Tuesday at $44.90 and were inactive premarket. The stock is down 3% this year. -By Ben Fox Rubin and Tess Stynes, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3108; ben.rubin@dowjones.com

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