Southern Co. sales slip amid soft economy

Cooler weather and the weak economy cut into Southern Co.'s revenues for the third quarter, but the utility giant still posted a slight increase in profits.

In its financial report for the period Wednesday, Atlanta-based Southern said it saw a decrease in electricity usage and sales as well as flat customer growth.

The electric utility holding company, owner of Georgia Power, had revenues of $4.68 billion for the three months ended Sept. 30, down from $5.43 billion for the same period a year ago, a 13.7 percent decline.

Net profit was $790 million, or 99 cents a share for the quarter, compared to $780.4 million, or $1.01 per share, a year earlier.

Industrial sales, which represent one-third of Southern's overall sales, were down 9.6 percent for the quarter, compared to the same period a  year ago.

The company saw an 11 percent increase in industrial sales compared to the second quarter of 2009, however.

"While the economy continues to take its toll, we are seeing signs of stabilization and what may be the beginnings of recovery in certain sectors in our region," said Southern Chief Executive David  Ratcliffe.

Industrial sales edged up on improved performance by the automotive industry sector, which benefited from the economic stimulus provided by the federal government's  Cash for Clunkers program, the company said.

Southern also was aided by lower operations and maintenance expenses during the period.