The electric maintenance cost increase of $5.2 million noted was mostly due to the impact of the January 2007 ice storm. Costs associated with the restoration effort due to the ice storm were approximately $29.0 million, of which $18.0 million was capitalized as additions to the Company's utility plant. Approximately $4.4 million was recorded as maintenance expense in the first quarter and approximately $6.5 million was deferred as a regulatory asset as the Company believes it is probable that these costs will be recoverable in future electric rate cases.
That would certainly sound like Empire's customers should be prepared to pay the price.
Despite the January ice storm, Empire recorded earnings more than three times higher than those posted in the first quarter of 2006:
The Company reported consolidated earnings for the first quarter of 2007 of $4.5 million, or $0.15 per share, compared with earnings in the same quarter of 2006 of $1.6 million, or $0.06 per share. Earnings for the twelve months ended March 31, 2007 were $42.2 million, or $1.44 per share. This compares to earnings of $25.6 million, or $0.99 per share, for the twelve months ended March 31, 2006. The Company issued approximately 3.8 million shares of common stock in June of 2006 which caused a dilutive effect to earnings per share of $0.02 and $0.21 for the first quarter and twelve-month periods, respectively.