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CenterPoint Energy Reports Third Quarter 2009 Earnings

Houston, TX – October 28, 2009 - CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CNP) today reported net income of $114 million, or $0.31 per diluted share, for the third quarter of 2009 compared to $136 million, or $0.39 per diluted share, for the same period of 2008.  Operating income for the third quarter of 2009 was $287 million compared to $337 million for the same period of 2008.

“Our core regulated operations, which represent more than 80 percent of our operating income, reported solid earnings this quarter despite the challenging economic climate,” said David M. McClanahan, president and chief executive officer of CenterPoint Energy.  “However, lower natural gas and natural gas liquids prices, a decline in natural gas throughput from the traditional basins and reduced basis differentials negatively impacted the performance of our field services and competitive natural gas sales segments.  We continue to believe that the overall fundamentals of our balanced portfolio of electric and natural gas businesses position us well as the economy recovers and the energy markets rebound.”  

For the nine months ended September 30, 2009, net income was $267 million, or $0.74 per diluted share, compared to $359 million, or $1.05 per diluted share, for the same period of 2008.  Operating income for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, was $825 million compared to $970 million for the same period of 2008.

OPERATING INCOME BY SEGMENT

Electric Transmission & Distribution

The electric transmission & distribution segment reported operating income of $218 million for the third quarter of 2009, consisting of $187 million from the regulated electric transmission & distribution utility operations (TDU) and $31 million related to transition bonds.  Operating income for the third quarter of 2008 was $202 million, consisting of $169 million from the TDU and $33 million related to transition bonds.  Operating income for the TDU benefited from growth of over 26,000 metered customers since September 2008, favorable weather and higher net transmission revenues, partially offset by higher operation and maintenance expenses.  In addition, the third quarter of 2008 was negatively impacted by $12 million as a result of Hurricane Ike.

Operating income for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, was $450 million, consisting of $353 million from the TDU and $97 million related to transition bonds.  Operating income for the same period of 2008 was $457 million, consisting of $352 million from the TDU, $100 million related to transition bonds and $5 million from the competition transition charge (CTC).  The CTC was discontinued in February 2008 when the company securitized the remaining true-up balance.

Natural Gas Distribution

The natural gas distribution segment reported an operating loss of $15 million for the third quarter of 2009 compared to an operating loss of $6 million for the same period of 2008.  The decline in operating income was primarily the result of higher pension and other operation and maintenance expenses, which more than offset rate increases and higher miscellaneous revenues.  Due to seasonal impacts, this segment typically reports a loss in the third quarter.

Operating income for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, was $105 million compared to $119 million for the same period of 2008.

Interstate Pipelines

The interstate pipelines segment reported operating income of $64 million for the third quarter of 2009 compared to $55 million for the same period of 2008.  Operating income benefited from higher revenue from new contracts on the Carthage to Perryville pipeline and for deliveries to gas-fired power generators.  These benefits were partially offset by higher pension and other operation and maintenance expenses.  In addition, operating income for the third quarter of 2008 included a $7 million write-down associated with pipeline assets removed from service. 

In addition to operating income, this segment recorded an equity loss of $5 million for the third quarter of 2009 from its 50 percent interest in the Southeast Supply Header (SESH), a new pipeline that went into service in September 2008.  The equity loss included a non-cash charge of $11 million during the quarter to reflect SESH’s decision to discontinue the use of regulatory accounting.  In the third quarter of 2008, equity income was $18 million primarily from allowance for funds used during construction. 

Operating income for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, was $194 million compared to $227 million for the same period of 2008.  Operating income for the nine months ended September 30, 2008, included a net gain of $11 million associated with a gain from the sale of two storage development projects and a write-down of pipeline assets removed from service.  In addition to operating income, this business had equity income of $2 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, from its interest in SESH.  The equity income included non-cash charges of $16 million to reflect SESH’s decision to discontinue the use of regulatory accounting.  For the nine months ended September 30, 2008, equity income was $34 million primarily from allowance for funds used during construction. 

Field Services
 
The field services segment reported operating income of $23 million for the third quarter of 2009 compared to $44 million for the same period of 2008.  The decline in operating income was primarily the result of commodity prices that were significantly lower in 2009 than in 2008 as well as the impact of lower natural gas throughput from traditional basins, which was partially offset by increased throughput from the unconventional shale plays.     

In addition to operating income, this segment recorded equity income of $2 million in the third quarter of 2009 compared to $4 million in the third quarter of 2008 from its 50 percent interest in a gas processing plant.  The decline was primarily due to lower natural gas liquids prices.

Operating income for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, was $72 million compared to $121 million for the same period of 2008.  Operating income for the nine months ended September 30, 2008, included gains of $17 million associated with the sale of non-strategic assets and the settlement of a contractual dispute.  Equity income from the jointly-owned gas processing plant was $6 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, compared to $12 million for the same period of 2008.

Competitive Natural Gas Sales and Services

The competitive natural gas sales and services segment reported an operating loss of $8 million for the third quarter of 2009 compared to operating income of $35 million for the same period of 2008.  Operating income for the third quarter of 2009 included charges of $6 million resulting from mark-to-market accounting for derivatives used to lock in economic margins of certain forward natural gas sales compared to gains of $46 million for the same period of 2008.  The third quarter of 2008 also included a $24 million write-down of natural gas inventory to the lower of average cost or market. In addition, reduced locational price differentials, and to a lesser extent lower retail sales volumes, contributed to the decline.

This segment recorded no operating income for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, compared to $36 million for the same period of 2008.  Operating income for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, included charges of $22 million resulting from mark-to-market accounting compared to gains of $14 million for the same period of 2008.  The nine months ended September 30, 2009, also included $6 million in write-downs of inventory to the lower of average cost or market compared to $24 million in inventory write-downs for the same period of 2008.     

DIVIDEND DECLARATION

On October 22, 2009, CenterPoint Energy’s board of directors declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.19 per share of common stock payable on December 10, 2009, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on November 16, 2009.    

OUTLOOK FOR 2009

CenterPoint Energy reaffirmed its 2009 earnings guidance of $1.05 to $1.15 per diluted share.  This guidance takes into consideration performance to date as well as various economic and operational assumptions related to the business segments in which the company operates.  The company has made certain assumptions regarding the timing and cost of certain financing activities, including timing of the sale of storm cost restoration bonds, and the impact to earnings of various regulatory proceedings.  In providing this guidance, the company has not included the impact of any changes in accounting standards, any impact from acquisitions or divestitures, the timing effects of mark-to-market or inventory accounting in the company’s competitive natural gas sales and services business, or the outcome of the TDU’s true-up appeal.  The company has also excluded any impact to income from the change in value of Time Warner stocks and the related ZENS securities.

FILING OF FORM 10-Q FOR CENTERPOINT ENERGY, INC.

Today, CenterPoint Energy, Inc. filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) its Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the period ended September 30, 2009.  A copy of that report is available on the company’s Web site, www.CenterPointEnergy.com, under the Investors section.  Other filings the company makes with the SEC and other documents relating to its corporate governance can also be found on that site.

WEBCAST OF EARNINGS CONFERENCE CALL

CenterPoint Energy’s management will host an earnings conference call on Wednesday, October 28, 2009, at 10:30 a.m. Central time or 11:30 a.m. Eastern time.  Interested parties may listen to a live audio broadcast of the conference call at www.CenterPointEnergy.com.  A replay of the call can be accessed approximately two hours after the completion of the call and will be archived on the Web site for at least one year.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission & distribution, natural gas distribution, competitive natural gas sales and services, interstate pipelines, and field services operations.  The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. Assets total nearly $19 billion.  With about 8,800 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 135 years.  For more information, visit the Web site at www.CenterPointEnergy.com.

This news release includes forward-looking statements.  Actual events and results may differ materially from those projected.   The statements in this news release regarding future financial performance and results of operations and other statements that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements.  Factors that could affect actual results include the timing and outcome of appeals from the true-up proceedings, the timing and impact of future regulatory, legislative, and IRS decisions, effects of competition, weather variations, changes in CenterPoint Energy’s or its subsidiaries’ business plans, financial market conditions, the timing and extent of changes in commodity prices, particularly natural gas, the impact of unplanned facility outages, and other factors discussed in CenterPoint Energy’s and its subsidiaries’ Forms 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2008, CenterPoint Energy’s and its subsidiaries’ Forms 10-Q for the periods ended March 31, 2009, and June 30, 2009, CenterPoint Energy’s Form 10-Q for the period ended September 30, 2009, and other filings with the SEC.