U.S. Markets closed

PPL's 4Q profit drops but tops St. view

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- PPL Corp. reported Thursday that its fourth-quarter profit fell on weakness in its energy supply business, which includes nuclear power.

The company, which generates and delivers electricity to customers in the United States and the United Kingdom, also issued a 2013 forecast that was in line with market forecasts and raised its dividend.

The Allentown, Pa.-based company earned $359 million, or 60 cents per share, for the period that ended Dec. 31. That's compared with $454 million, or 78 cents per share, in the same quarter of the prior year.

After adjusting for one-time items, PPL earned 49 cents per share versus 71 cents per share the year before. Revenue fell to $3.22 billion from $4.22 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting PPL to earn 46 cents per share on revenue of $2.75 billion.

In 2013, PPL expects to earn $2.25 to $2.50 per share. Analysts had forecast earnings of $2.42 per share for the year.

PPL expects its regulated utility business will account for 85 percent of its earnings in 2013, a gradual increase from prior years, with less coming from the energy supply business. It represented 72 percent of its earnings in 2012 and 58 percent in 2011.

The company said the forecast includes an additional scheduled outage at the Susquehanna nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, which federal regulators are examining after three unexpected shutdowns.

The outage is part of the company's plan to address issues with the plant's turbine blades and will lower 2013 earnings by about 5 cents per share.

PPL has said the plant is safe and stable. It's not clear how long the government's investigation will take.

PPL also announced Thursday that it will increase its quarterly dividend to 36.75 cents. That lifts the annual payments to $1.47 from $1.44. PPL has increased its dividend in 11 of the last 12 years. The next dividend is payable April 1 to shareholders of record as of March 8.

PPL shares slipped 8 cents to $30.39 in afternoon trading. Its stock remains at the higher end of its 52-week trading range of $26.68 to $30.60.