Ameren Corp. posted a $403 million net loss in the first quarter after writing down the value of an Illinois coal-fired power plant in response to weak electricity prices.
The net loss equaled $1.66 a share compared with a profit of $71 million, or 29 cents a share in the first quarter of 2011. Revenue tumbled 13 percent as warmer winter weather cut into energy sales.
The $377 million write-down of the Duck Creek plant in Canton, Ill., is the latest sign of the struggles for Ameren's wholesale electricity generating unit, Ameren Energy Resources.
The company has taken a number of other steps to reduce spending and weather a prolonged downturn in energy prices -- a trend being driven by the collapse in natural gas prices. Just a day ago, Ameren Energy Resources sought permission to delay the installation of pollution controls on some of its coal-fired plants in Illinois to preserve cash.
Excluding the reduction in the value of Duck Creek and other one-time costs and benefits, Ameren's so-called core earnings in the first quarter was $53 million, or 22 cents a share, compared with $60 million, or 25 cents, a year earlier.
The company's Missouri utility, Ameren Missouri, earned $21 million in the first quarter. That's unchanged from a year ago despite an 8 percent drop in electricity sales to customers in its service area.
Ameren Illinois' profit fell 18 percent to $27 million, mostly on a drop in natural gas sales.