WEC Energy Group profit up 9.4%

Natural gas demand drives increase

WEC Energy Group headquarters building
WEC Energy Group's Milwaukee corporate headquarters.

Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group Inc. today reported first quarter net income of $390.4 million, or $1.23 per diluted share, up 9.4 percent from $356.9 million, or $1.12 per share, in the first quarter of 2017.

WEC Energy Group headquarters building
WEC Energy Group’s Milwaukee corporate headquarters.

Operating revenues totaled $2.3 billion, flat from the year-ago quarter.

Operating income was $545.1 million, down from $614.7 million in the first quarter of 2017. The cost of sales increased year-over-year, along with other operation and maintenance, and depreciation and amortization.

WEC’s Wisconsin natural gas deliveries, excluding gas used for power generation, increased 11.2 percent in the first quarter. Retail deliveries of electricity to Wisconsin and Michigan, excluding the iron ore mine in Michigan, rose 1.6 percent over the first quarter of 2017. Residential electricity use increased 4.6 percent year-over-year, with large commercial and industrial (except the mine) rising 0.7 percent and small commercial and industrial up 0.1 percent. Retail deliveries of electricity were flat on a weather-normal basis.

“The solid results we posted for the opening quarter of 2018 were driven by stronger than expected demand for both natural gas and electricity,” said Gale Klappa, chairman and chief executive officer of WEC. “Colder winter temperatures, a strengthening economy, and efficiency gains across our system were all positive factors that lifted our earnings above year-ago levels.”

Klappa was appointed chief executive officer in November as former WEC CEO Allen Leverett continued to recover from a stroke he suffered in October. This was Klappa’s first full quarter back in the role since he retired in May 2016 and Leverett succeeded him. On a call with analysts Tuesday, he said Leverett is continuing to recover via intensive speech therapy, and the company has a plan in place in the event he does not return to WEC.

“As you would expect, we conduct rigorous succession planning discussions with our board on a regular basis,” Klappa said. “Guys, we’ve done so for many, many years. So, I can assure you that we have a solid plan B in place if Allen does not assume his previous role. The plan would involve a number of internal promotions. We would have great continuity going forward and the board and I are very comfortable with what I call plan B. We’ll continue to monitor the situation during the second and third quarters of this year and we’ll certainly keep you up to date on any new developments.”

WEC, which operates six utilities including We Energies, provides electric and natural gas to 4.4 million customers in four states. The company, which has about 8,500 employees, now has $31.8 billion in total assets, up from $31.6 billion at the same point last year.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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