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Duke Shareholders In Charlotte To Re-Hash Eventful Year

SCOTT GRAF: Duke Energy holds its annual shareholder meeting in Uptown Charlotte Thursday morning. Demonstrators will picket outside to protest the utility company's reliance on coal and nuclear power. There are a number of touchy issues shareholders will likely bring up inside the meeting. WFAE's Julie Rose has been covering Duke Energy and joins me now for a preview. First off Julie, how has Duke Energy's stock performed this year? ROSE: The share price is up 12 percent over last year. Trading at around $18.75. On Tuesday, Duke announced very strong earnings for the first quarter - even beating analyst expectations. GRAF: This has also been a big news year for Duke, hasn't it? ROSE: Yes. Duke announced a plan to purchase Raleigh's Progress Energy. If regulators approve, they'll be the largest utility in the country. That's generating a lot of excitement in the industry. Duke and Progress say they need to combine resources in order to afford the high cost of building new nuclear power plants. The Japanese nuclear crisis has, of course, cast a shadow over that, but Duke says it's moving forward. GRAF: On the other hand, Duke took quite a few hits for ethics scandals in Indiana this year. Safe to say that'll come up at the meeting? ROSE: I expect there will be shareholders pressing Duke for more explanation about the scandal. The evidence so far suggests Duke's executives were unusually cozy with their regulators in Indiana. Investigations are still underway to see if anything criminal happened. One consequence so far is that Duke is now struggling to regain support for a very expensive new coal power plant its building in Indiana. Another thing I imagine we'll hear about at the meeting is Duke Energy's very prominent role in wooing the Democratic National Convention to Charlotte. Some shareholders are unhappy that Duke is also backing a $10 million line of credit for the convention. WFAE will have reports from the Duke Energy Annual Shareholders meeting Thursday afternoon on All Things Considered.