Ameren Corp. boosts 2001 earnings estimate

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Jan. 7, 2002 – Gas and electric holding company Ameren Corp. Monday boosted its 2001 earnings forecast, and said it reached agreement with Missouri regulators on a schedule for a rate case.

Ameren, St. Louis, Mo., reported it expected to earn $3.40-$3.50/share this year, up from earlier projections of $3.30-$3.45/share. The new estimate excludes a 5-/share reduction in earnings due to an accounting change. Ameren’s shares were trading unchanged at midafternoon Monday.

On July 2, 2001, the Missouri Public Service Commission staff filed an excess earnings complaint against AmerenUE that proposed to reduce the utility’s annual electric revenues by $213 million-$250 million. AmerenUE is a unit of Ameren and Missouri’s largest electric utility.

In a Jan. 3 ruling, the PSC ordered the parties to use a July 1, 2000-June 30, 2001, test year for determining rates for AmerenUE’s Missouri retail electric operations. Originally, the PSC staff used a test year of July 1, 1999-June 30, 2000. The PSC also allowed AmerenUE to propose an incentive regulation plan.

Ameren said the order is consistent with a joint proposal submitted by the staff and AmerenUE and supported by the Office of Public Counsel. The company agreed if the PSC determines a rate decrease is warranted, the reduction would be retroactive to Apr. 1, 2002, regardless of when the commission issues its decision. Hearings in the case are scheduled to begin July 11 with the last hearing date set for Aug. 2.

CEO Charles Mueller said the incentive regulation plan the company operated under for the past 6 years returned more than $425 million in benefits to customers. The plans splits earnings above certain regulatory return-on-equity thresholds between shareholders and electric customers.

Ongoing earnings for the 9 months ended Sept. 30, 2001, were $427 million, or $3.11/share, compared to earnings of $431 million, or $3.14/share, for the prior-year period.

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