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Not surprising, given recent high energy prices,


(WMB) - Get Williams Companies Inc. (The) Report

posted fourth-quarter earnings that powered past analysts' expectations. The results were fueled by strong performances in the company's energy services and gas pipeline units. The company expects to meet existing performance expectations for 2001.

The Tulsa, Okla., energy firm said fourth-quarter earnings were $259.3 million, or 57 cents a share, compared with $66.1 million, or 14 cents a share, in the same period last year. Analysts expected fourth-quarter earnings of 22 cents a share, according to a

First Call/ Thomson Financial

survey of 13 analysts who follow the company.

Energy companies in general are being propelled by soaring energy prices. Late last month, for example,

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said fourth-quarter earnings rose at a rapid pace. Both companies beat earnings expectations.

Williams' revenue for the quarter was $3.28 billion, up from $2.08 billion a year ago, boosted by its energy services unit, which posted a profit of $630.5 million. By comparison, the unit made $142.9 million during the same period of last year. Williams said the increase was due primarily to higher natural gas prices and electric power trading profits. And profit at its gas pipeline unit grew to $741.5 million, from $697.3 million a year ago. But its communications group, which operates a 33,000-mile fiber-optic network, reported a loss of $152.4 million, compared with a loss of $68.3 million last year.

Williams said it believes its 2001 bottom-line will meet expectations, which are lower than this year's results. Analysts, on average, expect earnings of $1.28 a share this year, compared with full-year 2000 earnings of $1.95 a share.

Shares of Williams closed at $39.10 in Friday trading on the

New York Stock Exchange.