Dominion Resources (NYSE:D) reported earnings today and blew away analysts' expectations. With a solid quarter behind it and LNG opportunities ahead, let's see how Dominion Resources holds up to competitors Exelon (NYSE:EXC), Southern Company (NYSE:SO), and TECO Energy (NYSE:TE).

The Numbers
Dominion Resources' operating revenue came in at $3.43 billion, $100 million above third quarter sales last year and just over $200 million more than analysts had predicted.

On the bottom line, Dominion snagged a George Washington with $1.00 adjusted EPS. Not only did that beat analyst estimates of $0.92, but it also exceeded the company's previous guidance of $0.85-$0.90.

Here's how the company's earnings compare to Exelon, TECO Energy, and Southern Company.

 

Q3 Revenue ($B)

Y/Y Change (%)

Q3 Adjusted EPS ($)

Y/Y Change (%)

Dominion Resources

3.4

3%

$1.00

8.7%

Exelon

6.5

- 1.2%

$0.78

1.3%

TECO Energy

0.77

- 10.8%

$0.30

- 28.6%

Southern Company

5.0

- 0.6%

$1.08

- 2.7%

Source: Company Earnings Reports 

And for a peck of long-term perspective, here's how Dominion Resources has fared over the last five years:

D Revenue (Annual) Chart

D Revenue (Annual) data by YCharts

Dominion's latest earnings are hardly following the company's historic downward trend. While TECO Energy took a 10.8% revenue dive, Dominion was the only utility to see sales increase in the last year. And while Southern Company almost broke even on sales, its earnings slumped when compared to Dominion's 8.7% gain. Like Dominion, Exelon exceeded both top and bottom line estimates for Q3, but its growth just doesn't compare.

Beyond the numbers
According to Chairman, President, and CEO Thomas Farrell, lower operating and maintenance expenses, lower taxes and interest expenses, as well as the contribution of its TL-388 pipeline to its natural gas midstream Blue Racer joint venture, helped push this quarter's earnings past expectations.

Dominion's biggest contributor, its competitive merchant generation unit, saw margins squeezed this quarter. But unlike Southern Company and Exelon, two companies without major natural gas investments, Dominion's natural gas unit blew past operating EBIT of $175 million to $205 million to clock in at $289 million, albeit with some heavy-handed help ($75 million) from TL-388.

While Exelon has managed to pull up earnings with strategic natural gas hedges and TECO Energy has invested $950 million in a regulated natural gas utility, Dominion is going whole hog on the energy source.

It received approval in September to export LNG to non-Free Trade Agreement countries and recently formed Dominion Gas Holdings to cordon off its natural gas investments from the rest of the business. The company intends to form a Master Limited Partnership for the new holding company, a move that would cut down on taxes and push more earnings directly to shareholders.

Can Dominion Keep It Up?
Even with Dominion's Blue Racer contribution bumped to Q3, the company expects its Q4 earnings to clock in between $0.85-$0.95, way ahead of Q4 2012's $0.69. Along with hopes for more normal weather and no unexpected refueling outages, Dominion Resources predicts that core growth and additional reductions in operations and maintenance expenses will push its earnings higher.

Dominion Resources Q

Source: Dominion Q3 2013 Earnings Presentation 

But even as Dominion dabbles in biomass conversion, fuel cells, solar, and and potential offshore wind projects, the company's earnings remain closely tied to the future of natural gas. LNG exports can take advantage of global gas demand, but that same demand could push natural gas prices up to the point where other fuels regain their competitive edge. That means Exelon's nuclear fleet, as well as TECO Energy's and Southern Company's coal plants, could all make a comeback.

Long-time Dominion investors can pat themselves on the back while continuing to pull in their 3.5% dividend yield. But with little real energy diversity at these share prices, a buy now simply isn't the best move for your portfolio's profits. While business may be booming, there are other stocks out there with more upside and equally juicy dividends.

Fool contributor Justin Loiseau has no position in any stocks mentioned, but he does use electricity. You can follow him on Twitter @TMFJLo and on Motley Fool CAPS @TMFJLo.

The Motley Fool recommends Dominion Resources, Exelon, and Southern Company. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.