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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wisconsin Electric freezes hiring, executive pay

From an article by in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Anticipating a decline in electricity sales in 2009, Wisconsin Energy Corp. has frozen the salaries of top executives and implemented a limited hiring freeze.

"We have frozen hiring, except for critical operating positions," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gale Klappa said.

The cost-containment moves were made at the end of the year and announced Tuesday, after the Milwaukee energy holding company reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations of Wall Street analysts.

Colder-than-projected weather that drove higher use of natural gas and electricity; declining fuel prices; and income from the new Port Washington natural gas-fired power plant helped the company report better-than-expected earnings in the quarter, Chief Financial Officer Allen Leverett said.

We Energies, the main utility subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy, has projected that electricity sales to factories and other large customers will fall 6% in 2009.

In the fourth quarter, sales to those large customers fell 9% from the fourth quarter of 2007. Hardest hit, Klappa said, are paper mills, auto parts suppliers and basic metal companies such as foundries and specialty steel companies.

"Just having talked to a few of our largest customers over the last couple of weeks, my sense is we're not at the bottom yet in terms of the impact of the recession," he said.

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