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Avista saw 6 percent gain in profits in 2010

Fri., Feb. 18, 2011

Avista Corp.’s profits increased by 6 percent last year, a growth in earnings that Chairman and CEO Scott Morris attributed in part to lower power supply costs.

The lower costs helped the Spokane-based utility recover from weak electric and natural gas sales during the 2010 heating season that resulted from warmer weather.

Avista reported net income of $92.4 million, or $1.65 per share, for 2010, compared to $87.1 million, or $1.58 per share, for 2009.

For the fourth quarter of 2010, Avista’s net income was $25.7 million, or 45 cents per share, compared to $22.1 million, or 40 cents per share, for the fourth quarter of 2009.

In a press release, Morris described 2010 as a “solid year.” Temperatures last January through March were among the warmest in memory, which reduced the utility’s power sales. Cost-cutting measures, along with the lower power costs, helped offset Avista’s reduced revenues from the warmer temperatures, Morris said.

The utility’s bottom line also benefited from rate hikes that took effect in October for Idaho customers and in December for Washington customers. Morris said Avista subsidiary Advantage IQ also had a strong year, with revenues increasing by 32 percent. Advantage IQ helps companies manage their energy use and utility bills.

Avista increased its charitable giving by $2 million last year to help people in need, said Jessie Wuerst, company spokeswoman. Charitable contributions come out of shareholder profits, she said. They aren’t embedded in customer rates.

Morris said the return to normal winter weather should help the company’s revenues this year. However, he said the slow economic recovery continues to affect the utility business. Avista also expects to spend $250 million this year on capital projects, including upgrades to the company’s dams and smart-grid projects.

Morris said that Avista’s 2011 earnings are projected to be in the $1.60 to $1.80 per share range.

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