By Ernest Scheyder
Nov 6 (Reuters) - Duke Energy Corp, the largest U.S. power company, posted a lower-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday, primarily due to wet, cool weather in North and South Carolina that reduced demand for air conditioning.
Third-quarter net income was $1 billion, or $1.42 per share, compared with $594 million, or 85 cents per share, a year earlier.
The company bought rival Progress Energy last July for $18 billion. Excluding a charge related to that deal and other one-time items, Duke earned $1.46 per share for the third quarter. On that basis, analysts' average forecast was $1.51, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
"The third quarter is the biggest quarter for a utility," Lynn Good, Duke's chief executive, said in an interview. "It was just unseasonably cool in the Carolinas, with a lot of rain."
Utilities depend on customers cranking up air conditioners and other power-hungry devices during the summer. The cool weather dented Duke's earnings by 9 cents per share, Good said.
Operating revenue fell slightly to $6.71 billion. Analysts expected $7.32 billion.
Duke raised the bottom end of its 2013 earnings forecast, citing recent approvals of requests to raise utility rates. The company now expects an adjusted profit per share of $4.25 to $4.45, versus a previous range of $4.20 to $4.45. Analysts expect $4.30 per share.
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke has 57,000 megawatts of generating capacity and 7.1 million electricity customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
The company is the second-largest U.S. operator of nuclear power plants. Good said on Wednesday that the company's nuclear plants "are some of the most important assets that we own."
Shares of Duke closed Wednesday at $72.45, up nearly 14 percent this year.