Klappa cites milestones in reliability, customer satisfaction in annual meeting review of 2013 highlights

Also notes stronger earnings, exceptional shareholder returns

PR Newswire

MILWAUKEE, May 2, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- At Wisconsin Energy's (WEC) annual meeting of stockholders today, Chairman and Chief Executive Gale Klappa described 2013 as a remarkable year with significant achievements in financial performance, customer satisfaction, employee safety, and network reliability.

Klappa cited the following 2013 highlights:

Customer satisfaction

  • We Energies was named the most reliable utility in the nation. It also was named the most reliable in the Midwest for the ninth time in the past 12 years by an independent consulting firm.
  • For the fourth quarter of 2013, the company achieved the highest customer satisfaction ratings since the merger of Wisconsin Electric and Wisconsin Gas in 2000.

Company performance

  • Second best overall safety results in company history – an improvement of approximately 70 percent since 2003 in both recordable incidents and lost-time accidents.
  • Named for the seventh year in a row as one of the nation's best corporate citizens by Corporate Responsibility Magazine. The publication evaluates approximately 1,000 publicly held companies on the basis of environmental performance, employee relations, philanthropy, finance, and governance practices.

Earnings and financial strength

  • The highest net income in company history.
  • Earnings of $2.51 per share – a 6.8 percent increase over the $2.35 per share recorded in 2012.

Shareholder return

  • Wisconsin Energy's total return to shareholders has significantly outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, NASDAQ, the S&P Electric Index, and the Philadelphia Utility Index over the past 10 years. Wisconsin Energy's total shareholder return, assuming reinvested dividends, was 55.5 percent over three years, 131.8 percent over five years, and 227.1 percent over 10 years.
  • Through dividends and share buybacks, the company returned more than $450 million of cash to shareholders in 2013 – more than any other year in its history.

Dividend increase

  • Raised the dividend in January 2014 to an annual rate of $1.56 per share.
  • Klappa said the goal is to increase the company's dividend payout to 65 to 70 percent of earnings in 2017 – a level more competitive with other regulated energy companies.

Infrastructure improvements

  • Completed and placed into service a biomass-fueled cogeneration plant in Rothschild, Wisconsin, on time and on budget.
  • Between 2000 and 2013, the company's power plant capacity increased by 50 percent, while systemwide emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and particulate matter decreased by 80 percent.
  • Began construction of a new powerhouse for the company's Twin Falls dam on the Menominee River near the border of Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Scheduled completion is in 2016 at a cost of $60 million to $65 million.

Next steps
Klappa reiterated the company's plan to invest $3.2 billion to $3.5 billion from 2014 through 2018 to modernize the company's distribution networks for electricity and natural gas, meet changing environmental standards, and reduce operating costs for customers.

Stockholder actions
During the meeting, stockholders elected the following directors to terms expiring at the 2015 annual meeting:  John F. Bergstrom, Barbara L. Bowles, Patricia W. Chadwick, Curt S. Culver, Thomas J. Fischer, Gale E. Klappa, Henry W. Knueppel, Ulice Payne, Jr., and Mary Ellen Stanek. 

As recommended by the board of directors, stockholders also voted to:

  • Ratify Deloitte & Touche LLP as independent auditors for 2014.
  • Approve the compensation of the company's named executive officers (say-on-pay).

Earnings per share listed in this news release are on a fully diluted basis.

Wisconsin Energy Corporation (WEC), based in Milwaukee, is one of the nation's premier energy companies, serving more than 1.1 million electric customers in Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula and 1.1 million natural gas customers in Wisconsin.  The company's principal utility is We Energies.  The company's other major subsidiary, We Power, designs, builds and owns electric generating plants.

Wisconsin Energy (wisconsinenergy.com), a component of the S&P 500, has nearly $15 billion of assets, 4,300 employees and approximately 40,000 stockholders of record.

Forward-looking statements
Certain statements contained in this press release are "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  These statements are based upon management's current expectations and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those contemplated in the statements.  Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these statements.  Forward-looking statements include, among other things, statements concerning management's expectations and projections regarding dividend payouts, dividend increases, investments in infrastructure, capital expenditures and other matters.

Actual results may differ materially from those set forth in forward-looking statements.  Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated in any forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to: general economic conditions, including business and competitive conditions in the company's service territories; continued industry consolidation; timing, resolution and impact of future rate cases and other regulatory decisions; availability of the company's generating facilities and/or distribution systems; varying weather conditions; cyber security threats; unanticipated changes in fuel and purchased power costs, and supply and transportation availability; key personnel changes; customer growth and declines; energy conservation efforts; customers moving to self-generation; our ability to continue to mitigate the impact of Michigan customers switching to an alternative electric supplier; construction risks; restrictions on the ability of the company's subsidiaries to transfer funds to it; current and future litigation and regulatory investigations; the impact of any legislative and regulatory changes; current and future equity and bond market fluctuations; other events in the global credit markets that may affect the availability and cost of capital; the financial performance of the American Transmission Company; changes in accounting standards; foreign governmental, economic, political and currency risks; and other factors described under the heading "Factors Affecting Results, Liquidity and Capital Resources" in Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and under the headings "Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information" and "Risk Factors" contained in the company's Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2013, and in subsequent reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company expressly disclaims any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

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