Feb. 21, 2013, 8:44 a.m. EST
By Ben Fox
PG&E Corp. PCG -2.24% swung to a fourth-quarter loss, with the results being dragged down by a series of natural gas and environmental costs.
For the new year, the gas-and-electricity utility predicted adjusted earnings of $2.55 to $2.75 a share, compared with estimates of $2.78 from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
PG&E, which serves central and northern California, has had its profits hampered by charges related to a fatal 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif.
After a yearlong probe, federal investigators blamed PG&E for the blast and concluded that pipeline defects that went unnoticed for decades caused the rupture. The investigators also found that the utility's poor record-keeping and inadequate attention to pipeline safety were contributing factors. The violations could result in billions of dollars in fines. In addition, more than 100 victims of the disaster have filed lawsuits against the company.
Company executives said late last year they want to settle allegations over the pipeline explosion, although they declined to estimate the size of potential fines.
PG&E reported a loss of $13 million, or three cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $83 million, or 20 cents. The latest period includes a handful of one-time items related to pipeline-related costs, penalties, third-party claims, and insurance recoveries, as well as environmental costs associated with historic operations at the natural gas compressor station in Hinkley, California. Excluding these items, earnings from operations fell to 59 cents from 89 cents.
Analysts most recently forecast earnings of 59 cents.
Shares closed Wednesday at $43.12 and were inactive premarket. The stock is up 7.6% over the past three months.