Xcel Energy's 3Q profit rises 18 percent

MINNEAPOLIS -- Xcel Energy Inc. said Thursday that its third-quarter earnings rose 18 percent, beating expectations, as the utility company was helped by hot weather and rate hikes for electric and natural gas service and lower costs.

Xcel said it has recovered from earlier this year, when it was beset by weak sales, mild winter weather and rate hike rejections.

The company backed its forecast for full-year profit excluding one-time items to a range between $1.75 and $1.85 per share. Analysts expect $1.78 per share.

Revenue fell 4 percent to $2.72 billion. But net income for the third quarter rose to $398 million, or 81 cents per share, compared with $338 million, or 69 cents per share, a year earlier. Natural gas costs fell by nearly half and electric fuel costs also declined.

The company said that excluding a tax gain from federal subsidies for prescription drug plans it would have earned 78 cents per share. Analysts, who usually exclude items, expected 73 cents per share, according to FactSet.

The Minneapolis-based company's shares rose 38 cents to close at $29.92.