NiSource, the Merrillville-based parent company of NIPSCO, made $276.1 million in the first quarter, up 30 percent from the $211.3 million it made during the first quarter of 2017.
The utility company boosted net operating earnings to $259.7 million over the first three months of 2018, a 12 percent increase over the $230.6 million it pulled in during the same time last year. NiSource earned 82 cents per share in the first quarter, up from 65 cents in the first three months of last year.
“Our first quarter results reflect sustained strong execution of NiSource's well-established plan that’s creating value for our customers, communities and investors," NiSource President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Hamrock said. “Our systems performed well throughout the prolonged winter heating season, and we’re on pace to deliver on our earnings, capital investment and customer commitments in 2018.”
NiSource, which is investing $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion in utility infrastructure, expects to grow its net operating income per share by 5 percent to 7 percent annually over the next few years. The publicly traded company recently boosted its quarterly dividend to an annualized 78 cents per share, an 11.4 percent increase.
NIPSCO expects to boost revenue by $107.3 million a year in natural gas revenue as the result of a proposed settlement before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission that would help fund upgrades to the system of pipelines. It filed a seven-year gas infrastructure modernization plan that calls for $1.25 billion in investments through 2025, and an order is expected later this year.
The utility company is benefiting from federal tax cuts that reduced the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, down from 35 percent. Regulators required that NIPSCO pass savings onto customers instead of shareholders, and the average electric residential customer should save $30 per year, while the average natural gas residential customers should pocket about $10 more per year.
"This lower amount is great news for all our customers thanks to the savings associated with federal tax reform," NIPSCO President Violet Sistovaris said.