PacifiCorp, the parent company of Utah Power and other subsidiaries, Thursday reported first quarter earnings of $105 million or 37 cents per share, down from $111 million or 39 cents for the same period last year.
First quarter revenues were down 1 percent to $649 million, on a 1 percent decrease in energy sales for the company, based in Portland, Ore."Earnings did not meet expectations," said Fred Buckman, president and chief executive officer.
"Mild winter weather, the related soft market for wholesale energy and higher effective tax rates offset customer growth in our electric and telecommunications operations."
Buckman said he was disappointed with the low demand for electricity in PacifiCorp's markets last winter but said he is optimistic that earnings will improve later this year, "given more normal weather and our continued emphasis on expense and capital spending controls."
In its recently published annual report, PacifiCorp reported earnings from continuing operations of $428 million or $1.51 per share for 1994, up from $383 million or $1.40 per share in 1993. Revenues for '94 totaled $3.5 billion, up from $3.4 billion in '93.
Buckman said in his letter to shareholders that while 1994 was a good year for PacifiCorp, what really matters to them is their return on investment . . . and in that case, the past year was one better forgotten as the company's total return was flat for the year.
But it could have been worse, Buckman pointed out, much worse. The total return for the S&P electric company index was a staggering minus-16 percent as rising interest rates and the threat of competition fueled investor concerns in utilities.
PacifiCorp's no gain but no loss total return in '94 was good enough for sixth place among the nation's 70 largest investor-owned utilities - a category of investment long thought to be among the safest around.
That image has been demolished, at least for the near future.
"Without question, the forces of competition have now hit the industry head-on, and investors are concerned," said Buckman. "Customers are demanding lower prices and more flexibility. New, unregulated competitors are springing up in the power marketing and generation businesses (and) efforts are intensifying to open up the high-voltage interstate transmission grid to all interested parties."
Sound ominous? No doubt, agrees Buckman. "But as with any upheaval, there are opportunities." Quoting several market analysts who are bullish on Pacifi- Corp's prospects in a deregulated, highly competitive environment, Buckman said he likes what they are saying and agrees with them.
"I believe PacifiCorp has the right combination of defensive strengths, growth prospects and talented employees to prosper in the years ahead," he said.
Still, he concedes that there is more risk in the electric utility business than ever before. "But the bigger risk lies in not doing anything. PacifiCorp has an advantage in this new marketplace. Our low prices and solid customer service record would make it difficult for another utility to pull away our existing customers . . . "
"Our ultimate goal is superior shareholder return. We expect to stack up well not only against our utililty peers but also against other industrial companies."
PacifiCorp's annual meeting is scheduled for May 10, 1:30 p.m. in Abravanel Hall, Salt Lake City.