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EDISON LOSS BEATS ESTIMATES UTILITY GIANT STILL RECOVERING FROM '01 ENERGY CRISIS DEBTS.

Byline: Andrew Blazier Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - Edison International on Tuesday showed improving signs of life despite a heavy debt load, combining quarterly and annual core earnings gains.

Despite posting a $24 million, fourth-quarter loss, power utility giant Edison, the parent company of Rosemead-based Southern California Edison, continues to recover from nearly $3 billion in debt incurred from the 2001 energy crisis, Chief Executive Officer John Bryson said during a conference call with investors and analysts.

For the fourth quarter of 2002, Edison recorded a loss of 7 cents per share, a 101 percent earnings decrease from $6.65 per share for the fourth quarter of 2001. However, the core EPS for the quarter was 18 cents, beating analysts' average estimate of 16 cents, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

Edison reported annual earnings of $1.1 billion or $3.31 per share for 2002, up from $1 billion, or $3.18 per share, in 2001. Edison reported a core EPS of $2.02 for 2002, up 55 percent from $1.30 in 2001.

Core earnings exclude earnings related to procurement- and generation- related adjustments in 2001 at SCE and losses from discontinued operations at Edison Mission Energy and Edison Enterprises. Core earnings exceeded estimates on First Call by 21 cents per share.

``I think they're improving,'' said Jeffrey Hoffman of Buckingham Research Group. He said analysts focus on core earnings, because they account for adjustments Edison has had to make during its attempt to regain revenue lost during the power shortage two years ago.

Bryson attributed the quarterly loss to a charge of $77 million, or 24 cents a share, for Edison Mission Energy's Lakeland project, which was placed into administrative receivership in the United Kingdom. The company's Edison Capital unit also booked a charge of $34 million to write off an investment in aircraft leases with UAL Corp.'s United Airlines.

Bryson coupled the company's full-year earnings with near-completion of a debt recovery program, saying Edison expects to pay off its remaining $452 million balance by midsummer.

``We made substantial progress, but the job is not yet done,'' he said.

Edison Mission Energy, which supplies primarily coal power in the Midwest, should be helped by the region's harsh winter, Hoffman said. A drought in the Pacific Northwest should aid all subsidiaries this summer, he said.

``Things should improve quite a bit at that point,'' Hoffman added.

Shares of Edison International closed up 41 cents Tuesday to $12.39 on the New York Stock Exchange.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 26, 2003
Words:415
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