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Duke Energy Earnings Fall Slightly After Natural Gas Unit Spin-Off

Duke Energy , one of the largest electric power companies in the United States, said Tuesday its first-quarter profit fell slightly after it spun off its natural gas business at the beginning of the year.

Duke earned $357 million, or 28 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2007, down from $358 million, or 37 cents per share, during the same period in 2006.

Excluding special items and discontinued operations, the company said it earned 30 cents per share in the period.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial forecast a profit of 31 cents per share. Thomson estimates usually exclude special items.

Revenue rose 48% to $3.09 billion from $1.62 billion during the same period a year earlier. Analysts expected revenue of $3.05 billion.

"Our first quarter as a pure-play electric company was very solid and reflects our focus on the business," said Duke Energy Chairman and Chief Executive James E. Rogers in a statement accompanying the report. "Our regulated businesses are performing well and the vast majority of our merger initiatives are either complete or on target"

Duke Energy acquired the power company Cinergy Corp. for $9 billion in April 2006. The Charlotte-based company spun off its natural gas unit, now trading as Spectra Energy, to its shareholders in January.

For the quarter, Duke Energy's franchised electric and gas unit posted an increase in earnings, mainly driven by the addition of Cinergy's regulated utility operations in the Midwest, favorable weather and customer growth. But the company's commercial power segment posted lower results brought on by the Cinergy addition.

Duke Energy International posted an increase in earnings, due to favorable pricing and foreign exchange impact in Brazil.

Duke Energy supplies and delivers energy to 3.9 million customers. It has nearly 37,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity in the Midwest and the Carolinas, and natural gas distribution services in Ohio and Kentucky.