Southern Company chairman tells shareholders significant opportunities await company in U.S. energy markets
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Southern Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Dahlberg said today that the company is standing on the doorstep of significant growth opportunities.
Dahlberg told 1,000 people at the companys annual meeting of shareholders that the landscape of the future energy business will be dominated by a few companies who get their strategies right. By purchasing and operating generating assets that total more than 12,000 megawatts in New England, California, the Midwest and Texas and complement its position as a major trader and marketer of power and natural gas, Southern Company is positioning itself to be a leading energy provider in the United States.
We are standing on the doorstep of some of Americas largest energy-consuming markets: Boston, New York City, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Dahlberg said. We believe there will be about a half-dozen national energy providers. Southern Company intends to be one of those companies.
Dahlberg applauded the companys efforts to take care of its customers in the Southeast by paying attention to the needs of those customers and keeping prices among the lowest in the U.S.
We have the best franchise business in the United States here in the Southeast, he said. We are doing a fantastic job taking care of our customers, and they are the heartbeat of our business. In a survey of 88 utilities last year, our five operating companies ranked one through five in customer satisfaction for large customers.
Dahlberg reviewed Southern Companys international and domestic projects, saying its goal remains the same: to be the best investment in the industry, as measured by total shareholder return. In 1998, Southern Company delivered a total shareholder return of 18 percent on earnings of $977 million.
Operations in Asia contributed $51 million to Southern Companys net earnings during the first quarter of 1999, a $31 million increase over the first quarter of 1998. With our two Sual plants coming on line later this year in the Philippines, we will begin to realize the type earnings contribution that we anticipated when we bought Consolidated Electric Power Asia two and a half years ago, Dahlberg said.
Southern Company announced that it plans to increase its target for earnings per share growth from a range of five percent to six percent up to six percent to eight percent off its base of earnings in 2000. The company will focus on providing value to its retail customers in the Southeast, adopting and maintaining an aggressive growth strategy as the energy market becomes increasingly competitive, and emphasizing a concentrated geographical focus in its international businesses.
In April, we sent a very clear signal to the market when we announced plans to purchase up to 50 million of our own shares over the next two years. Dahlberg added. We believe our strategies will result in the best shareholder return available and we could no longer ignore the terrific value our shares represent.
During the business portion of the meeting, stockholders elected a slate of 12 candidates to the companys board of directors, including three new directors. New directors include:
Dorrit J. Bern, 49, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Charming Shoppes, Inc.
Thomas F. Chapman, 55, president and chief executive officer of Equifax Inc.
David J. Lesar, 45, president and chief operating officer of Halliburton Company.
The following members of the board of directors were re-elected to the board:
A.W. Dahlberg, 59, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Southern Company.
A.D. Correll, 58, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Georgia-Pacific Corp.
H. Allen Franklin, 54, president and chief executive officer of Georgia Power and executive vice president of Southern Company. Effective June 1, Franklin becomes president and chief operating officer of Southern Company.
Bruce S. Gordon, 53, group president of enterprise business group for Bell Atlantic Network Services Inc., telecommunications.
L.G. Hardman III, 59, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of First Commerce Bancorp Inc.
Elmer B. Harris, 60, president and chief executive officer of Alabama Power and executive vice president of Southern Company.
Zack T. Pate, 62, chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators and chairman emeritus of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.
Gloria M. Shatto, 67, president emerita of Berry College.
Gerald J. St. Pé, 59, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding Inc.
Southern Company (NYSE: SO), the largest producer of electricity in the United States, is the parent firm of Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Savannah Electric. Based in Atlanta, Southern Company, through its Southern Energy Inc. subsidiary, develops, builds, owns and operates power production and delivery facilities and provides a broad range of services to utilities and industrial companies in 10 countries on four continents. Southern Company also provides energy-related marketing, trading and technical services and Southern LINC wireless telecommunications.
NOTE: Read the full text of Bill Dahlbergs annual meeting speech.