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CenterPoint Energy (CNP)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 29, 2012 11:30 am ET


Marianne Paulsen -

David M. McClanahan - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Gary L. Whitlock - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

C. Gregory Harper - Senior Vice President and Group President of Energy Pipelines & Field Services


David Frank

Carl L. Kirst - BMO Capital Markets U.S.

Ali Agha - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Faisel Khan - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Yves Siegel - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division



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Good morning and welcome to CenterPoint Energy's Fourth Quarter And Full Year 2011 Earnings Conference Call with Senior Management. [Operator Instructions] I will now turn the call over to Marianne Paulsen, Director of Investor Relations. Ms. Paulsen?

Marianne Paulsen

Thank you very much, Thea. Good morning, everyone. This is Marianne Paulsen, Director of Investor Relations for CenterPoint Energy. I'd like to welcome you to our fourth quarter and full year 2011 earnings conference call.

Thank you for joining us today. David McClanahan, President and CEO; and Gary Whitlock, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, will discuss our fourth quarter and full year 2011 results and we'll also provide highlights on other key activities. In addition to David and Gary, we have other members of management with us, who may assist in answering questions following their prepared remarks. Our earnings press release and Form 10-K filed earlier today are posted on our website, which is, under the Investors section. This quarter we have created supplemental materials which are also posted under the Investors section of our website. These materials are for informational purposes and we will not be referring to them during prepared remarks. I remind you that any projections or forward-looking statements made during this call are subject to the cautionary statements on forward-looking information in the company's filings with the SEC.

Before David begins, I would like to mention that a replay of this call will be available until 6:00 p.m. Central Time through Wednesday, March 7, 2012. To access the replay, please call 1 (855) 859-2056 or (404) 537-3406 and enter the conference ID number 01632104. You can also listen to an online replay of the call through the website that I just mentioned. We will archive the call on CenterPoint Energy's website for at least 1 year.

And with that, I will now turn the call over to David.

David M. McClanahan

Thank you, Marianne. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us today and thank you for your interest in CenterPoint Energy. 2011 was a very good year for the company, 4 of our 5 business units had strong years both operationally and financially. We resolved the long standing issues associated with our 2004 true-up proceeding. And last month, we covered almost $1.7 billion of additional true-up cost through the issuance of securitization bonds. We're pleased this matter is finally behind us and we can now focus our full attention on the future.

This morning, we reported full year earnings of $1.36 billion or $3.17 per diluted share. Excluding the impacts of the true-up proceeding, net income would have been $546 million or $1.27 per diluted share, compared to $442 million or $1.7 per diluted share in 2010. So this was an outstanding year either way you look at it.

Our fourth quarter results were also solid. Net income was $117 million or $0.27 per diluted share compared to $124 million or $0.29 per diluted share for the fourth quarter of 2010. Fourth quarter earnings for 2011, on the same basis as we provide earnings guidance, would have been $0.26 per diluted share. This was above our expectations due principally to a lower effective tax rate associated with state income taxes. Our press release and 10-K provide the details around our financial results this past year. So I won't repeat the specifics.

I will however, summarize the performance of each unit and describe their prospects for 2012 and beyond. Houston Electric had its best year financially. Core operating income was $496 million compared to $427 million in 2010. Fourth quarter income was $62 million, up $6 million from 2010. Last summer's record heat was the biggest driver of Houston Electric's increased income.

In addition, we saw strong growth in Houston with over 45,000 new customers added last year. Our gas LDCs also had a good year. Operating income for the full year was $226 million or about $5 million below the record level of 2010. Fourth quarter income was $73 million compared to $86 million in 2010. While margin growth was modest last year, we were successful in our expense management efforts. As a result, on an overall basis, we earned at or near our authorized rate of return for the second consecutive year.

Our Interstate Pipelines achieved operating income of $248 million last year down from the $270 million in 2010. Income in the fourth quarter was $52 million compared to $63 million in the previous year. The decline in earnings for the full year and fourth quarter were almost completely attributable to the exploration of a backhaul contract on our Carthage to Perryville line.

Our Field Services unit had a very strong year. As a result of the investments we've made to gather and treat gas in several developing shale plays. Full year operating income was $189 million, compared to $151 million the previous year. Fourth quarter earnings were $53 million compared to $57 million in the fourth quarter of 2010. It is worth noting that operating income for 2010 reflected a gain of $21 million from the sale of some nonstrategic assets. Excluding that onetime gain, last year's fourth quarter earnings were up over 45% from 2010.

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