March 2, 2012 / 2:58 PM / 6 years ago

TransAlta profit plunges on Alberta shutdowns

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Power company TransAlta Corp TA.TO reported a 74 percent drop in quarterly profit on Friday, spurring a more than 2 percent fall in its share price, as its earnings were hurt by unplanned plant shutdowns in Alberta and lower prices in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

The company, which runs coal, hydro and gas-fired power plants as well as renewable energy facilities in North America and Australia, said its comparable earnings fell to C$29 million($29.4 million), or 13 Canadian cents a share, in the fourth quarter from C$80 million, or 36 Canadian cents, a year earlier That was well under analysts’ average estimate for the measure of 22 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The quarter was the last under former Chief Executive Steve Snyder, who retired at the start of 2012. He was replaced by Dawn Farrell, an executive with 25 years’ experience in the electricity industry, who apologized for the weak quarterly result.

“We were not happy about our fourth quarter,” Farrell said on a conference call. “(Fourth-quarter) earnings of 13 cents a share were ... below the expectations for the financial performance we expect from our diversified portfolio of generation assets.”

An unplanned shutdown of its 466-megawatt Genessee 3 power plant in Alberta and lower power prices in the U.S. Pacific Northwest curbed the company’s profit. It also took a C$13 million charge against the funds held by MF Global MFGLQ.PK, half of what TransAlta is owed by the collapsed futures brokerage.

The company said net income fell 74 percent to C$24 million, or 11 Canadian cents a share, from C$92 million, or 42 Canadian cents, a year earlier.

Power availability on its fleet of generators dropped to 90.3 percent from 91.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Revenue fell 10 percent to C$701 million.

TransAlta shares were down C$0.47 at C$20.33 early on Friday afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

($1=$0.99 Canadian)

Reporting by Scott Haggett and Aftab Ahmed in Bangalore; Editing by Peter Galloway

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