SCANA's profit jumps 9.6%

SCANA Corp. said Tuesday its third quarter net earnings rose 9.6 percent as the state's only Fortune 500 company benefited from a $15 million state tax refund.

The company, which has moved its headquarters to Cayce from Columbia, also said it expects to reach the upper end of its earnings forecast for the year.

This comes despite third-quarter revenues falling 27.3 percent from a year ago to $921 million as natural gas revenue tumbled nearly 50 percent. Electric revenue fell 8.3 percent in the quarter.

SCANA said revenues were hurt by lower gas costs - which are passed through to customers - and the recession pinching electric sales to wholesale and industrial customers.

Excluding one-time events and interest charges, operating income dipped 7.4 percent from the third quarter of 2008.

Still, with the tax refund, the company posted third-quarter earnings of $103 million, or 84 cents per share, compared with $94 million, or 80 cents per share, a year earlier.

Investors generally liked what they saw, sending SCANA's stock up 11 cents Tuesday to $34.70.

SCANA received a $15 million refund after the state Supreme Court reversed itself last month and allowed the company to carry over an unused investment tax credit from 1996.

"The improvement in (the) third quarter ... was primarily a result of resolution of a state tax issue," chief financial officer Jimmy Addison said in a statement.

SCANA said it expects earnings of $2.80 to $2.95 per share this year, up from earlier expectations of $2.65 to $2.95 per share.

The company said it continues to expect an annual earnings growth rate of 4 percent to 6 percent over the next three to five years.

So far this year, net earnings are up 4.6 percent to $272 million.

In the third quarter, SCANA's main subsidiary, SCE&G, saw its earnings rise 9 percent to $109 million. The company's two retail gas operations, however, lost $7 million, though its wholesale and industrial natural gas arm earned $3 million, up 50 percent from a year ago.