Southern Company reports first-quarter 98 earnings

Southern Company`s first-quarter earnings rose by $55 million or 7 cents a share in 1998 compared with the first quarter of 1997, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer A.W. Dahlberg announced today.

Southern Company`s board of directors also today approved a quarterly dividend of 33½ cents a share, payable June 6 to shareholders of record May 4. This marks the 205th consecutive quarter - dating back to 1948 - that Southern Company has paid a dividend to its shareholders. Dahlberg noted that non-traditional operations were strong contributors to net income in the first quarter.

"Southern Energy`s strong performance reflects growing income from our investments in Asia, South America, the Caribbean, the United States and Europe, led by earnings from our investment in Europe," he said. "Southern Energy represents a major part of our company`s future growth as we enter a more competitive business environment."

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, supplies electricity in 10 countries on four continents. Southern Company also provides energy-related marketing, trading and technical services and Southern LINC wireless telecommunications. Its common stock is one of the 20 most widely held corporate stocks in America.

Southern Energy develops, builds, owns and operates power production and delivery facilities and provides a broad range of energy services to utilities and industries around the world. Southern Energy`s projects under development include the 1,200-megawatt Sual power station under construction in the Philippines. Southern Energy also operates Southern Company Energy Marketing, a joint-venture marketer of energy and energy-related commodities and services, which has become the second-largest marketer of electricity and one of the 10 largest marketers of natural gas in the United States.

In the three months ending March 31, 1998, Southern Company earned $242 million or 35 cents a share, compared with $187 million or 28 cents a share for the comparable 1997 period. Earnings for the 12 months ending March 31, 1998, were $1.03 billion or $1.49 a share, compared with $1.08 billion or $1.60 a share for the 12 months ending March 31, 1997.

A windfall-profits tax assessed against Southern Company`s South Western Electricity subsidiary in the United Kingdom caused a one-time charge in the third quarter of 1997, reducing earnings by $111 million or 16 cents a share for the 12 months ending March 31, 1998. First quarter 1998 revenues were $2.5 billion, compared with $2.6 billion in 1997`s first quarter. Revenues for the 12 months ending March 31, 1998, were $12.5 billion, compared with $10.5 billion for the previous 12-month period.

Reviewing operations, Dahlberg said electricity use by retail customers in Southern Company`s service area increased 4.4 percent to 32 billion kilowatt-hours during the first quarter of 1998. In-home electricity needs were up 8.1 percent to 9.5 billion kilowatt-hours. Electricity consumption by commercial customers - offices, stores and other non-manufacturing firms - rose 2.3 percent to 8.9 billion kilowatt-hours. Industrial energy use increased 3.3 percent to 13.3 billion kilowatt-hours.

Total sales of electricity to customers of Southern Company, including sales to other utilities, were up 4.4 percent in the first quarter of 1998, compared with the first quarter of 1997.