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FirstEnergy Reports 44% Quarterly Profit Jump

FirstEnergy, which provides electric utility service to customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, said Tuesday its fourth-quarter profit jumped 44%, as changes to the Ohio rate plan helped offset the affect of milder weather.

Quarterly earnings rose to $274 million, or 84 cents a share, from $190 million, or 58 cents a share, during the same period in 2005. Accelerated stock repurchases in August trimmed shares outstanding in the quarter to 321 million from 330 million during the same period a year earlier, which boosted earnings by 2 cents a share.

The results included a gain of a penny a share related the sale of some assets.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial forecast a profit of 85 cents a share. Thomson estimates usually exclude special items.

Revenue fell 2% to $2.68 billion from $2.72 billion during the same period a year earlier. Analysts expected revenue of $2.85 billion.

The company blamed its revenue shortfall on milder weather, which trimmed electric distribution deliveries by 2%, although changes to Ohio rate plan boosted overall earnings.

Annual earnings increased 46% to $1.25 billion, or $3.81 a share, from $861 million, or $2.61 a share in 2005. Revenue grew 1% to $11.5 billion from $11.36 billion.

The company said it expects 2007 earnings of between $4.05 a share and $4.25 a share, excluding special items. Last year, the company earned $3.85 a share, excluding special items.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial presently forecast a profit in 2007 of $4.13 a share.

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