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National Fuel profits top forecasts

National Fuel Gas Co.'s first-quarter profits topped analyst forecasts as the Amherst-based energy company increased its oil and natural gas production while earnings grew at its utility business.

National Fuel's profits fell to $102.7 million, or $1.18 per share, compared with $198.7 million, or $2.30 per share a year ago, when earnings were bolstered by a one-time gain stemming from the new federal tax law. That beat analyst forecasts by 24 cents per share.

Excluding one-time items, National Fuel's earnings from its operations grew by 11 percent to $97.5 million, or $1.12 per share, from $88 million, or $1.02 per share, a year ago. That topped analyst forecasts by 6 cents per share.

"We had a really good opening quarter for our 2019 fiscal year," CEO Ronald J. Tanski said during a conference call Friday.

National Fuel's oil and natural gas production grew by 23 percent, while earnings from its utility business rose 22 percent. Earnings from its network of gathering pipelines in Pennsylvania rose by 25 percent.

The company increased its earnings guidance for the fiscal year that ends in September by 1 percent to $3.55 per share, up 5 cents from its previous forecast.

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