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Southwest Gas Announces First Quarter Earnings

LAS VEGAS, April 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Southwest Gas Corporation (NYSE: SWX) announced 1997 first quarter earnings of $0.80 per share, an increase of $0.20 from the $0.60 per share reported for the same period in 1996. Consolidated net income applicable to common stock was $21.6 million, compared to $14.9 million for the same quarter in 1996.

According to Michael O. Maffie, President and Chief Executive Officer, the increase was the result of a $17.1 million improvement in operating margin (revenues less cost of gas sold) attributed to customer growth, rate relief, and more favorable weather conditions compared to the first quarter of 1996. The operating margin increase was partially offset by higher operating and financing expenses incurred as a result of the expansion and upgrading of the gas system to accommodate customer growth, which continues to significantly outpace industry averages.

During the first quarter of 1997, the Company billed an average of 62,000 more customers per month than in the first quarter of 1996, resulting in approximately $4 million of additional margin from core customer growth. General rate relief effective July 1996 increased operating margin by $5 million. Weather-related variances between periods resulted in a $8 million increase in margin from weather-sensitive customers. Even though there was improvement, warmer than normal temperatures were experienced in both reporting periods. On a weather normalized basis, first quarter 1997 operating margin would have been approximately $8 million greater than reported, and first quarter 1996 operating margin would have been $16 million, or 15 percent, higher than reported.

For the twelve months ended March 31, 1997, consolidated net income applicable to common stock was $13.3 million, or $0.50 per share, compared to consolidated net income applicable to common stock from continuing operations of $3.1 million, or $0.12 per share, during the twelve-month period ended March 31, 1996.

Operating margin increased $34.5 million due to continued customer growth, rate relief, and improved, but warmer than normal, weather conditions. On a weather-normalized basis, operating margin would have been approximately $16 million greater than actually reported for the twelve months ended March 31, 1997 and $29 million higher in the previous period. The increase in operating margin was partially offset by higher operations and maintenance expenses, depreciation expense, and net financing costs associated with the Company's growing customer base.

Southwest Gas Corporation provides natural gas to approximately 1.1 million customers in Arizona, Nevada and California. Its service territory is centered in the fastest-growing region of the country.

                  SOUTHWEST GAS CONSOLIDATED EARNINGS DIGEST

    QUARTER ENDED MARCH 31,                         1997               1996

    Operating Revenues                          $235,231,000      $188,352,000
    Net Income Applicable to Common Stock        $21,568,000       $14,859,000
    Average Number of Common Shares Outstanding   26,816,000        24,604,000
    Earnings Per Share of Common Stock                 $0.80             $0.60

    TWELVE MONTHS ENDED MARCH 31,                   1997               1996

    Operating Revenues                          $690,940,000      $548,333,000
    Net Income - Continuing Operations           $13,283,000        $3,064,000
    Net Income (Loss) - Discontinued Operations          $--     $(17,732,000)
    Net Income (Loss) Applicable to Common Stock $13,283,000     $(14,880,000)
    Average Number of Common Shares Outstanding   26,437,000       24,025,000
    Earnings Per Share from Continuing Operations      $0.50            $0.12
    Earnings (Loss) Per Share from
     Discontinued Operations                             $--           $(0.74)
    Earnings (Loss) Per Share of Common Stock          $0.50           $(0.62)

SOURCE Southwest Gas Corporation
CONTACT: Media: Dante Pistone, 702-876-7253, or Shareholder: Laura Hobbs, 702-876-7237, both for Southwest Gas