American Electric earnings fall

COLUMBUS, Ohio — American Electric Power's fourth-quarter earnings fell 26 percent, the company said Friday, largely because it was ordered to pay $43 million in refunds to Ohio customers.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio ruled recently that an AEP unit serving parts of Ohio had "significantly excessive earnings" in 2009 and would have to pay money back to consumers, in accordance with a state law. The refund is included in the quarter's results, AEP said.

The power supplier, which owns Kentucky Power, made $176 million, or 37 cents per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31 compared with $238 million, or 50 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $3.4 billion, up from $3.3 billion a year earlier.

Michael Morris, AEP's chairman and CEO, said the company's power sales to industrial customers grew for the third straight quarter.

"We also benefited in 2010 from favorable weather conditions that improved sales and helped offset the slow economic recovery," Morris said.

For the year, AEP's earnings fell 11 percent. The company had net income of $1.21 billion, or $2.53 per share, in 2010, down from $1.36 billion, or $2.96 per share, in 2009.

AEP said the annual results reflect various one-time items, like a $293 million second-quarter restructuring charge from cutting 2,500 jobs, about 11.5 percent of the utility's work force.