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CenterPoint shares slide after impairment charge

HOUSTON (AP) -- Shares of CenterPoint Energy Inc. slipped on Wednesday after the big utility said an accounting charge all but wiped out any third-quarter profit.

Net income was $10 million, or 2 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Sept. 30.

Not counting special items in the most recent quarter, CenterPoint said it would have earned $174 million, or 40 cents per share.

During the same period last year it earned $973 million, or $2.27 per share, in a quarter that was inflated by one-time items. Without those, its year-ago profit would have been $162 million, or 38 cents per share.

Revenue fell 9.4 percent to $1.71 billion, from $1.88 billion a year ago.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet had been expecting a profit of 33 cents per share on revenue of $2.13 billion in the latest quarter.

CenterPoint said it had to take a $252 goodwill writedown in its natural gas sales and service unit. The abundance of natural gas in the U.S. has pushed prices down, squeezing profit margins for companies that move and sell it.

CenterPoint also booked a $136 million non-cash, pre-tax gain as part of its acquisition of an additional 50 percent stake in the Waskom gas gathering and processing joint venture.

"While this quarter's financial results were impacted by two unusual items, our overall business performance was solid and in line with our expectations," said David M. McClanahan, president and CEO, in a prepared statement.

Not counting the goodwill charge, CenterPoint reaffirmed its full-year earnings guidance of $1.13 to $1.23 per share.

CenterPoint shares fell 85 cents, or 4 percent, to close at $20.63.