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NW Natural 1Q net income dips on higher expenses

May 4, 2012
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PORTLAND, Ore.—Northwest Natural Gas Co.'s first-quarter net income dipped due to higher expenses.

The utility company, which operates as NW Natural, reported Friday that it earned $40.6 million, or $1.51 per share, for the three months ended March 31. That compares with $40.8 million, or $1.53 per share, a year earlier.

The performance matched the expectations of analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue increased 4 percent to $139.9 million from $134.5 million, below Wall Street's $207.2 million.

NW Natural, based in Portland, Ore., provides natural gas service to about 682,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in western Oregon and southwestern Washington. It is the largest independent natural gas utility in the Pacific Northwest.

NW Natural said that that its operations and maintenance expense climbed mostly because of increased payroll costs related to more filed employees, higher employee benefit costs and other cost increases such as safety training.

Total operating expenses, which include the operations and maintenance expense, increased to $61.2 million from $56.6 million.

Total gas sales and transportation deliveries rose 2 percent in the quarter thanks to higher industrial demand and more residential and commercial customers.

NW Natural also declared a quarterly dividend of 44.5 cents per share. The dividend will be paid on May 15 to shareholders of record on April 30.

The company maintained its guidance for full-year earnings of $2.35 to $2.55 per share.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect earnings of $2.53 per share.

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