Southern Company raises dividend

Directors of Southern Company, the nation’s largest producer of electricity, today raised the quarterly dividend on the company`s common stock one penny to 32½ cents a share. The dividend is payable March 6 to shareholders of record Feb. 3.

The dividend increase is the company`s sixth in as many years. The new quarterly dividend equals an annual rate of $1.30 per share.

“The dividend increase reflects our strong performance in 1996 and the optimism we have that the company is well-positioned for an era of increasing competition,” said A.W. Dahlberg, chairman, president and chief executive officer.

Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) provides energy to six countries across four continents. It is the parent firm of five southeast U.S. electric utilities: Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Savannah Electric.

It also markets energy-related services and mobile radio services under the Southern Company name. Its Southern Energy Inc. subsidiary develops, builds, owns and operates power production and delivery facilities and provides a broad range of services in the U.S. and international markets. Southern Company’s common stock is one of the 20 most widely held corporate stocks in America.

In announcing financial results for 1996, Dahlberg reported that earnings for the year were $1.13 billion or $1.68 a share, compared with $1.10 billion or $1.66 a share for 1995. For the fourth quarter of 1996, net income was $139 million or 21 cents a share, compared with $160 million or 24 cents a share for the comparable period a year earlier.

Revenues for 1996 were $10.3 billion, compared with $9.2 billion for 1995. Fourth quarter 1996 revenues were $2.5 billion, compared with $2.3 billion in 1995’s fourth quarter.

Reviewing operations, Dahlberg said electricity use by retail customers in Southern Company`s service area increased 3.3 percent to 131.8 billion kilowatt-hours during 1996. In-home electricity needs were up 2.5 percent to 40.1 billion kilowatt-hours. Electricity consumption by commercial customers — offices, stores and other non-manufacturing firms — gained 5.7 percent to 38.0 billion kilowatt-hours. Industrial energy use increased 2.2 percent to 52.8 billion kilowatt-hours. Total sales of electricity to customers of Southern Company, including sales to other utilities, were up 5.0 percent in 1996, compared with 1995.

Dahlberg said Southern Company gained 71,000 new customers in 1996.