Ameren Corporation (AEE)
Q4 2011 Earnings Call
February 23, 2012 10:00 a.m. ET
Douglas Fischer – Director, IR
Tom Voss – Chairman, President and CEO
Martin Lyons – SVP, CFO
Paul Patterson – Glenrock Associates
Julien Dumoulin-Smith – UBS
Tom Rebinoff – Fore Research and Management
David Paz – BofA/Merrill Lynch
Reza Hitucki – Decade Capital
Michael Lapides – Goldman Sachs
Greg Reiss – Catapult
John Murphy – Green Arrow
Previous Statements by AEE
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It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Douglas Fischer, Director of IR for Ameren Corporation. Thank you, sir. You may now begin.
Thank you, and good morning. I’m Doug Fischer, Director of Investor Relations for Ameren Corporation. On the call with me today are our Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Tom Voss; our Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Marty Lyons; and other members of Ameren management team.
Before we begin, let me cover a few administrative details. This call is being broadcast live on the Internet and the webcast will be available for one year on our website at www.ameren.com. Further, this call contains time-sensitive data that is accurate only as of the date of today’s live broadcast. Redistribution of this broadcast is prohibited.
To assist with our call this morning, we have posted a presentation on our website that will be referenced during this call. To access this presentation, please look in the Investor section of our website under webcasts and presentations and follow the appropriate link.
Turning to page two of the presentation, I need to inform you that comments made during this conference call may contain statements that are commonly referred to as forward-looking statements. Such statements include those about future expectations, beliefs, plans, strategies, objectives, events, conditions, and financial performance.
We caution you that various factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated and described in the forward-looking statements. For additional information concerning these factors, please read the forward-looking statement section in the news release we issued today, and the forward-looking statements and risk factors section in our filing with the SEC.
Tom will begin this call with an overview of 2011 earnings and 2012 guidance, followed by a discussion of recent business and regulatory developments. Marty will follow with more detailed discussions of 2011 financial results, our 2012 guidance and regulatory and other financial matters. We will then open the call for questions.
Here’s Tom, who will start on page three of the presentation.
Thanks, Doug. Good morning and thank you for joining us. Core earnings for 2011 were $2.56 per share in line with the increased guidance range we provided in November of last year. As expected, these 2011 results were below the $2.75 of core earnings per share achieved in 2010. This reflected lower electric sales to native load utility customers due in part to summer temperatures that while warmer than normal were below those very hot 2010.
In addition, merchant generation margins decline as a result of lower realized power and capacity prices, as well as higher fuel and transportation related expenses. These factors were offset in part by increased electric utility rates in Missouri and Illinois.
Further, core non-fuel operations and maintenances expenses were lower, reflecting continued disciplined cost management, and interest cost fell as we used our free cash flow over the last two years to reduce outstanding debt.
Beginning on page four you will find a list of our key accomplishments in 2011. These accomplishments are clear evidence of our commitment to providing customers with safe, reliable, environmentally responsible, and reasonably priced energy while at the same time enhancing value for our shareholders. To put these accomplishments into context it is important to summarize some of our key financial objectives.
At our regulated utilities, we seek to earn fair returns on our investments, which allow us to attract on competitive terms the capital we need to provide the level of service our customers expect. We are working around fair returns by maintaining solid operating performance while improving our regulatory frameworks and seeking rate release as needed.
Further we are committed to allocating capital to those projects on which we expect to earn fair returns and aligning our spending with regulatory outcomes and economic conditions. At our merchant generation business we seek to protect and enhance shareholder value by minimizing operating and capital spending during the current period of low power prices while advocating for regulatory policies and power market improvements that will lead to improved economics.
While I’ll not touch on each of the 2011 accomplishments listed on pages four and five, I would like to summarize and highlight a few of our successes. At Ameren Missouri and Ameren Illinois, we posted another year of solid distribution system reliability. At Ameren Missouri and our merchant generation business availability of our energy centers remained high.
Our restoration efforts following severe storms in both Missouri and Illinois won praise from government officials. In addition, in 2011, we actively pursued legislative and regulatory agendas that we expect will improve predictability and level of earned returns at our regulated utilities. The most notable development on this front was the enactment by the State of Illinois of legislation established on performance based formula ratemaking for electric delivery service. Further, we thought and obtained electric and gas rate increases in Missouri and a gas rate increase in Illinois, the latter of which was authorized in January of 2012.