NiSource Inc. net earnings increased 34.7 percent to $260.5 million in the first quarter, mainly on the sale of its service protection business to AGL Resources Inc. in January.
Income from continuing operations notched a smaller gain of just 11.9 percent, rising to $215.4 million during the quarter. Basic earnings from continuing operations were 69 cents per share as compared to 68 cents per share in the year-ago quarter.
NiSource's first quarter results for per share earnings reflect the issuance of 24 million shares of stock in September 2012.
"Our team's demonstrated ability to deliver on a broad and growing inventory of infrastructure-based capital investment opportunities, coupled with regulatory and customer initiatives, generated first quarter results in line with our expectations, as well as our 2013 earnings outlook," said NiSource CEO Robert Skaggs Jr.
During a morning conference call with industry analysts, Skaggs also touted the Indiana General Assembly's passage of SB 560.
The CEO told analysts passage of the bill will support NIPSCO's long-term modernization plan, as well as increase the efficiency of Indiana's regulatory process.
Skaggs said NIPSCO is now formulating a seven-year infrastructure replacement plan which will be subject to review by both the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and stakeholders such as customers.
SB 560 expands the use of utility bill surcharges known as "trackers," which pay for basic infrastructure improvements such as pipelines and wires. It also allows utilities to temporarily implement up to 50 percent of a requested rate hike if state regulators take more than 300 days to decide a case.
The bill was opposed by consumer groups, with Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. calling it a "sweetheart deal" for utilities, contending it will ultimately hike customer rates.
Gov. Mike Pence is expected to sign SB 560 as passed by both houses on Wednesday.
NiSource subsidiary NIPSCO, headquarted in Merrillville, has 457,000 electric and 786,000 natural gas customers in northern Indiana. NiSource also owns utilities in six other states as well as a gas transmission business serving 16 states.