Questar Corporation (STR)

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Questar (STR)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 15, 2012 9:30 am ET

Executives

Kevin W. Hadlock - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer and Executive Vice President

Ronald W. Jibson - Chief Executive Officer, President, Director, Chief Executive Officer of Questar Gas Company and President of Questar Gas Company

R. Allan Bradley - Executive Vice President, Chief Executive Officer of Questar Pipeline Company and President of Questar Pipeline Company

James R. Livsey - Executive Vice President and General Manager of Wexpro Company

Analysts

Christopher P. Sighinolfi - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Danilo Juvane

Timm Schneider - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good morning. My name is Jessica, and I will be the conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the fourth quarter year end 2011 earnings release conference call. [Operator Instructions] Kevin Hadlock, you may begin your conference.

Kevin W. Hadlock

Thank you, Jessica. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us for Questar's Full Year 2011 Earnings Conference Call. I am Kevin Hadlock, Questar’s Chief Financial Officer. With me today are Ron Jibson, President and CEO of Questar Corporation; Jim Livsey, Executive Vice President of Wexpro; Allan Bradley, CEO of Questar Pipeline; and Craig Wagstaff, Senior Vice President of Questar Gas.

During this call, we will be referring to our 2011 earnings presentation that can be found on our website at www.questar.com.

Moving to Slide 2. Before we begin, let me remind you that we will be making forward-looking statements during our call today and actual results could differ from our estimates for a variety of reasons that we describe in our SEC filings. Also, this call may reference non-GAAP financial measures. Our slides in the Appendix provide reconciliations to these measures.

Let's begin on Slide 4. Yesterday, we reported full year 2011 net income of $207.9 million or $1.16 per diluted share. This compares to income from continuing operation of $201.1 million or $1.13 per diluted share in 2010.

Operating cash flow was strong in 2011, totaling about $484 million, up more than 5% versus 2010. Overall, capital investment was $368 million, up almost 15% over 2010 levels.

Turning to Slide 5. All 3 business units showed earnings improvement in 2011 versus the prior year. Corporate was lower due to higher interest expense from the $250 million of debt issued in December of 2010. Overall, net income in 2011 increased by $6.8 million or $0.03 per diluted share over income from continuing operations in 2010.

Moving to Slide 6. Wexpro, our cost of service natural gas development company, grew EBITDA to $213.9 million, up $14.5 million or 7% compared to 2010. 2011 net income was up $7.1 million to $95.2 million, an increase of 8% over 2010. These results were driven largely by a higher average investment base, which saw year-over-year increase of $17.8 million or about 4.1%. Wexpro invested capital of $136.2 million in 2011 compared to $90.6 million in 2010.

Turning to Slide 7. Questar Pipeline, our interstate natural gas pipeline and storage business, delivered solid performance in 2011. Revenue was up slightly, driven primarily by additional transportation revenues from the Overthrust Loop Expansion. These results were essentially offset by lower revenues from natural gas liquid sales. Net income was $67.9 million, consistent with 2010's strong performance. Capital investment in 2011 was $16.5 million lower than 2010, driven by the completion of several key projects early in the year.

Moving to Slide 8. Questar Gas, our retail gas distribution utility, saw an increase in gross margin of $12.4 million. EBITDA and net income were both higher by $5 million and $2.2 million respectively. Questar Gas' capital investment in 2011 was $121.5 million, an increase of $12.9 million over 2010 levels.

Moving to Slide 9. With regard to costs, Questar's 2011 consolidated operating and maintenance costs were essentially flat versus 2010. Our general and administrative expenses were higher due to the absorption of expenses that were previously allocated to QEP Resources in 2010 prior to the spinoffs and slightly higher employee costs.

Production and other taxes were $1.9 million higher due to property taxes on higher plant investment. Depreciation in 2011 was up $6.5 million compared to 2010 due to higher capital investment. Consolidated interest expense was $300,000 lower primarily due to lower interest rates, partially offset by corporate debt issued in December 2010.

Turning to Slide 10. The company continues to generate strong cash flow. For 2011, cash flow from continuing operations before working capital changes total about $484 million, a 5.4% increase over 2010. At December 31, Questar had net available liquidity of $281 million, with $219 million of commercial paper outstanding.

With that, let me turn the time over to Questar's President and CEO, Ron Jibson, to discuss operations and Questar's outlook.

Ronald W. Jibson

Good morning, everyone, and thanks Kevin for that summary. We appreciate all of you joining us today and I'll briefly comment on our full year 2011 results and update our long-term outlook. Let's begin on Slide 12.

With the end of the fourth quarter, we recognized a number of key milestones in 2011. First, we completed the first full calendar year as the New Questar, emerging as a well-balanced integrated natural gas company. Second, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Wexpro Agreement. And finally, we delivered record results in each of our business units: Questar Gas, Wexpro and Questar Pipeline.

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