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NiSource turned profit of $128.6 million in 2017

The NiSource headquarters is shown on 86th Avenue, in Merrillville. 

NiSource turned a profit of $128.6 million, or 39 cents per share, last year.

That was down significantly from the $328.1 million, or $1.02 per share, it made in 2016. The Merrillville-based parent company of NIPSCO lost $52.4 million in the fourth quarter because of a one-time hit related to the federal tax cuts.

If not for the non-recurring write-down, NiSource otherwise would have made $110.3 million, or 33 cents per share in the fourth quarter.

“NiSource's focus on delivering value to customers in 2017 was unwavering," NiSource President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Hamrock said. "It was a year of disciplined execution across all aspects of our business plan — from improved safety and customer satisfaction to record infrastructure investment and strong financial results. This continued execution supported safe, reliable service to customers and improved environmental performance of our systems, while delivering a total shareholder return of more than 19 percent in 2017, once again exceeding the performance of the major utility indices."

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The utility said the federal tax cuts, which will cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, will cut rates and ensure the sustainability of its long-term investment plan. NiSource made $1.7 billion in capital investments last year into its gas and electric utilities. The company replaced 377 miles of natural gas pipeline, 68 miles of underground electric cable and 1,300 electric poles.

NiSource is still seeking its first natural gas base rate increase in more than 25 years from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, and expects a response in the second half of the year. The utility is seeking an annual revenue increase of $117.9 million for system upgrades and technology improvements that it says would make pipelines safer and the system more reliable.

NiSource expects to invest $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion in infrastructure annually through 2020. The publicly traded company, which pays an annualized dividend of 78 cents per share, expects to grow earnings by 5 percent to 7 percent each year through 2020.

"We're confident in our ability to meet our commitments to our customers and the financial community while also managing through changes which will result from tax reform," Hamrock said.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.