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Duke Energy Says It's On Track To Trim Costs $400M Amid Pandemic

Duke Energy building
David Boraks
Duke Energy's headquarters is seen in uptown Charlotte.

Duke Energy says it's on track to save $400 million to $450 million this year through cost-cutting related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Charlotte-based company says it has idled plants as electricity demand fell and reduced travel as many as 18,000 of its 30,000 employees worked remotely during the pandemic. Duke has not laid off any full-time employees, but it slowed hiring and cut outside contractors' jobs, Chief Financial Officer Steve Young said.

"We're putting training in place and shifting employees to areas that need additional resources," Young said. "And that displaces the need for contractors, that displaces the need for budgeted hires, and allows a more efficient usage of the workforce."

Young said $350 million in savings so far this year helped shore up profits even as the company sold less electricity. On Thursday, Duke reported a third-quarter profit of $1.27 billion, down from $1.33 billion a year ago.

The company recorded one-time expenses related to canceling the Atlantic Coast Pipeline ($69 million) and settlements in two North Carolina rate-hike cases ($27 million). Excluding those items, earnings per share of $1.87 beat Wall Street analysts' estimates.

"Our businesses continued to grow and showed terrific flexibility in light of the continuing pandemic," Young said. "We've shown a lot of resiliency, and we've continued to keep our service reliable."

Young said weather affected service and costs during the quarter, including efforts to restore power after Hurricanes Isaias.

Duke Energy's shares were trading up as much as 3% Thursday morning.

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