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WGL shares fall on weak 4Q and forecast

The Associated Press

WGL Holdings Inc.'s shares tumble Thursday after the utility-holdings company reported a disappointing fiscal fourth quarter and gave a weak outlook for the current fiscal year.

The company on Wednesday posted a loss of $51.6 million, or $1 per share, for the period. That is compared to net income of $7.7 million, or 15 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. On an adjusted basis, the company posted a loss of 55 cents per share versus a loss of 10 cents per share last year. Revenue for the quarter slipped 2 percent to $409.9 million.

WGL said it was weighed down by higher employee benefit costs, increased tax rate and lower margins.

Analysts polled by FactSet were anticipating a loss of 34 cents per share on revenue of $437.5 million.

WGL, which is the parent company of Washington Gas Light Co. and other subsidiaries, said it expects to earn between $2.15 and $2.35 per share for its 2014 fiscal year on an adjusted basis. Analysts had forecast earnings of $2.67 per share for the year.

Brean Capital analyst Michael Gaugler downgraded his rating on the company's stock to "Hold" from "Buy," citing the pair of "unpleasant surprises." The analyst attributed a large part of the company's troubles to its retail energy segment.

Shares of the company, which is based in Washington, D.C., fell $3.95, or 9 percent, to $40.90 by late afternoon Thursday amid a broader market uptick.