NiSource earnings up, NIPSCO projects highlighted

2013-10-31T11:00:00Z 2014-12-19T17:33:15Z NiSource earnings up, NIPSCO projects highlightedBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

NiSource Inc. reported third quarter net income Thursday of $48.1 million, or 16 cents per share, as compared to third quarter 2012 net income of $19.3 million, or 6 cents per share.

NiSource CEO Robert Skaggs Jr. highlighted several projects at the company's NIPSCO subsidiary in northern Indiana during a morning conference call, including a request filed with state regulators for approval of $700 million in natural gas system improvements.

“Our NIPSCO team is delivering on a broad agenda of initiatives that will strengthen its core natural gas and electric system, while enhancing service and providing a platform for economic growth and development across northern Indiana,” Skaggs said.

NiSource's NIPSCO subsidiary has 457,000 electric and 786,000 natural gas customers in northern Indiana. NiSource, headquartered in Merrillville, also owns utilities in six other states as well as a gas transmission business serving 16 states.

The CEO also confirmed NiSource's 2013 year-long earnings guidance of $1.50 to $1.60 per share.

In addition to the request with state regulators for natural gas system improvements, NIPSCO has filed another for $1 billion in electric system improvements.

NIPSCO has requested a staged rate hike over seven years to pay for the electric system improvements that would hike customer bills by a cumulative total of about 6 percent by 2020. For the natural gas system improvements, it is asking for similar incremental increases that would hike customer bills more than 10 percent by 2020.

Both requests are the first in the state to be brought under Senate Bill 560, which was passed in the last session of the General Assembly. The bill called for a quick resolution to such cases and allows utilities to increase charges to pay for the improvements undertaken.

NIPSCO prefers to conclude such cases by settling with consumer groups, Skaggs told analysts. But he acknowledged because NIPSCO's requests are the first ever in the state under Senate Bill 560, the utility expects both to be contested by consumer groups.

"But we think the process will be constructive," Skaggs said.

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