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CenterPoint Energy Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2009 Earnings

Houston, TX – February 26, 2010 - CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CNP) today reported net income of $105 million, or $0.27 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to $87 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, for the same period of 2008.  Operating income for the fourth quarter of 2009 was $299 million compared to $303 million for the same period of 2008.

For the year ended December 31, 2009, net income was $372 million, or $1.01 per diluted share, compared to $446 million, or $1.30 per diluted share, for the same period of 2008.  Operating income for the year ended December 31, 2009, was $1.1 billion compared to $1.3 billion for the same period of 2008. 

“Our company performed well in 2009 in the face of a weak economy and challenging energy markets,” said David M. McClanahan, president and chief executive officer of CenterPoint Energy.  “Our regulated electric and natural gas utilities turned in solid operating and financial performances.  The company’s interstate pipelines and field services businesses expanded their systems and increased throughput, but lower natural gas and natural gas liquids prices adversely affected their financial performances.  Additionally, results of the competitive natural gas sales unit were adversely affected by substantially reduced locational and seasonal price differentials.  As the economy improves and stronger energy markets emerge, our regulated utilities and natural gas businesses are well positioned to benefit.”

OPERATING INCOME BY SEGMENT

Electric Transmission & Distribution

The electric transmission & distribution segment reported operating income of $95 million for the fourth quarter of 2009, consisting of $61 million from the regulated electric transmission & distribution utility operations (TDU) and $34 million related to transition and system restoration bonds.  Operating income for the fourth quarter of 2008 was $88 million, consisting of $55 million from the TDU and $33 million related to transition bonds.  Operating income for the TDU benefited from growth of over 29,000 metered customers since December 2008, higher net transmission revenues and income associated with the company’s investment in an advanced metering system (AMS).  These benefits were partially offset by reduced energy demand as well as higher operation and maintenance expenses.  In addition, the fourth quarter of 2008 reflected lower operating expenses as resources were devoted to recovery from Hurricane Ike.

Operating income for the year ended December 31, 2009, was $545 million, consisting of $414 million from the TDU and $131 million related to transition and system restoration bonds.  Operating income for the same period of 2008 was $545 million, consisting of $407 million from the TDU, $133 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 authorized true-up balance.  Operating income for the TDU benefited from customer growth, higher net transmission revenues and income associated with the company’s investment in AMS, partially offset by reduced energy demand and increased operation and maintenance expenses, primarily employee-related.  In addition, 2008 included a gain from a land sale, lower net revenues related to Hurricane Ike and a refund of prior years’ state franchise taxes. 

Natural Gas Distribution

The natural gas distribution segment reported operating income of $99 million for the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to $96 million for the same period of 2008.  Operating income increased from higher rates, other miscellaneous revenues and lower bad debt expense, partially offset by higher pension expense of $11 million. 

Operating income for the year ended December 31, 2009, was $204 million compared to $215 million for the same period of 2008.  The decline in operating income was primarily due to higher pension expense of $37 million and other operating expenses, partially offset by higher rates and lower bad debt expense.

Interstate Pipelines

The interstate pipelines segment reported operating income of $62 million for the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to $66 million for the same period of 2008.  The decline in operating income was primarily due to higher pension and other operating expenses.  Higher revenue from new firm contracts was offset by lower revenue from off-system sales.   

In addition to operating income, this segment recorded equity income of $5 million for the fourth quarter of 2009 primarily from its 50 percent interest in the Southeast Supply Header (SESH), which went into service in September 2008, compared to equity income of $2 million for the same period of 2008.  

Operating income for the year ended December 31, 2009, was $256 million compared to $293 million for the same period of 2008.  The decline in operating income was primarily due to higher pension and other operating expenses.  Higher revenue from new firm contracts was partially offset by lower revenue from ancillary services and off-system sales.  Operating income for the year ended December 31, 2008, included a net gain of $11 million associated with the sale of two storage development projects and a write-down of pipeline assets removed from service. 

In addition to operating income, this segment had equity income of $7 million for the year ended December 31, 2009, primarily from its interest in SESH, which included non-cash charges of $16 million to reflect SESH’s discontinued use of regulatory accounting.  For the year ended December 31, 2008, equity income was $36 million primarily from allowance for funds used during construction. 

Field Services

The field services segment reported operating income of $22 million for the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to $26 million for the same period of 2008.  The decline in operating income was primarily the result of commodity prices that were higher in 2008 than in 2009, partially offset by growth in core gathering throughput.      

In addition to operating income, this segment recorded equity income of $2 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to $3 million in the fourth 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 year ended December 31, 2009, was $94 million compared to $147 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, partially offset by growth in core gathering throughput.  Operating income for the year ended December 31, 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 $8 million for the year ended December 31, 2009, compared to $15 million for the same period of 2008.

Competitive Natural Gas Sales and Services

The competitive natural gas sales and services segment reported operating income of $21 million for the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to $26 million for the same period of 2008.  The decline in operating income was due to reduced locational and seasonal price differentials, partially offset by lower operation and maintenance expenses.  In addition, operating income for the fourth quarter of 2009 included charges of $1 million resulting from mark-to-market accounting for derivatives associated with certain forward natural gas purchases and sales used to lock in economic margins.  The fourth quarter of 2008 included a $6 million write-down of natural gas inventory to the lower of average cost or market.

Operating income for the year ended December 31, 2009, was $21 million compared to $62 million for the same period of 2008.  The decline in operating income was due to substantially reduced locational and seasonal price differentials.  In addition, operating income for the year ended December 31, 2009, included charges of $23 million resulting from mark-to-market accounting compared to gains of $13 million for the same period of 2008.  The year ended December 31, 2009, also included $6 million in inventory write-downs compared to $30 million in inventory write-downs for the same period of 2008.      

DIVIDEND DECLARATION

On January 21, 2010, CenterPoint Energy’s board of directors declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.195 per share of common stock payable on March 10, 2010, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on February 16, 2010.  This represents more than a 2.6 percent increase over the $0.19 per share of common stock quarterly dividends paid by the company in 2009.     

OUTLOOK FOR 2010

CenterPoint Energy expects earnings for 2010 to be in the range of $1.02 to $1.12 per diluted share.  This guidance takes into consideration 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 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.  For the impact of these factors on 2009 earnings, see the attached reconciliation.

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

Today, CenterPoint Energy, Inc. filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the period ended December 31, 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 Friday, February 26, 2010, 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.  Supplemental materials are also available on the company’s Web site.

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 $20 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 natural gas and natural gas liquids prices, the impact of unplanned facility outages, and other factors discussed in CenterPoint Energy’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2009, and other filings with the SEC.