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Why PG&E Reported Lower Earnings but Beat Estimates in 1Q16

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PCG’s earnings

PG&E Corporation’s (PCG) earnings in 1Q16 came in at $0.82 per share against its earnings of $0.87 per share in 1Q15. Earnings in the reported quarter were low, primarily due to timing-related tax expenses, which were partially offset by higher rate base earnings.

After PCG’s 1Q16 earnings, the company’s management maintained its earnings guidance of $3.65–$3.85 per share for 2016.

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Earnings drivers

During 1Q16, PG&E Corporation’s total operating expenses rose due to higher operations and maintenance costs. However, PCG spent less on the costs of power and natural gas. Its expenses for purchased power were also lower in 1Q16 compared to 1Q15.

P&E Corporation also benefited from increased investment in its operational territory in 1Q16. This improved its rate base and helped uplift its earnings in the quarter.

The GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) earnings of PG&E Corporation for 1Q16 stood at $31 million, or $0.06 per share, which reflected the impact of a penalty of $369 million pretax that was imposed by regulators. The California Public Utilities Commission imposed this fine on PCG in connection with its gas pipeline accident in San Bruno in 2010.

PG&E’s industry peers

California utilities (VPU) have some of the highest returns on equity in the United States (SPY). Return on equity for PG&E Corporation during the 1Q16 stayed around 10.4%.

Sempra Energy (SRE) and Edison International (EIX) have also reported their first-quarter results. Sempra Energy and Edison International both reported lower earnings in 1Q16 compared to the previous comparable quarter.

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