TransAlta generates higher fourth-quarter earnings on acquisition, lower costs

CALGARY – TransAlta Corp. is reporting higher fourth-quarter profits on an Australian power plant acquisition and lower operations and maintenance costs.

The Calgary-based power producer (TSX:TA) says net earnings were $38 million, or 15 cents per share, an improvement from the $24 million, or 11 cents per share it reported during the same period a year earlier.

Comparable earnings were $54 million, or 21 cents per share, better than the $29 million, or 13 cents per share the company posted during the same 2011 quarter.

However, the improved profits missed the average analyst estimate of 28 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenues were $661 million, down from $701 million.

TransAlta shares were off four per cent to $15.71 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The company said fleet availability in the quarter was strong at 89.4 per cent, a bit lower than the 90.3 rate it had a year earlier.

TransAlta acquired the 125-megawatt dual-fuel Solomon power station in Western Australia last September for $318 million.

Operations, maintenance and administration costs declined 10 per cent year-over year, exceeding TransAlta’s target of a five-per-cent reduction.

“TransAlta’s fourth quarter has shown promising gains This return to more normalized results is a positive step in the right direction and a good starting point for 2013,” said CEO Dawn Farrell, adding 2012 “marked a year of substantial progress for TransAlta.”

“We have stayed the course and completed what we said we would do, including setting the fleet up for end of life and realigning the company to ensure continuous focus on operational excellence and growth. These efforts will carry forward into the future and are expected to reduce costs by approximately $25 to $30 million on an annualized basis by the end of 2013.”