Questar

(STR)

posted a 41% earnings gain, aided by higher natural gas production and prices, but trimmed 2006 guidance.

The company earned $104 million or $1.19 a share, compared with $73.6 million or 85 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of $96.1 mllion, or $1.11 a share, in the most recent quarter. Fourth-quarter and full-year results of the company were hit by an impairment charge of $10.4 million, or 12 cents a share.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose by 55% from the year ago to $941.4 million. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting revenue of $673.6 million in the most recent quarter.

The company expects lower 2006 earnings of $4.30 a share to $4.60 a share compared with the earlier guidance of $4.50 a share to $5 a share. The revised guidance, the company said, reflects the recent sharp drop in natural gas prices and significantly wider basis differentials for natural gas produced in the Rockies and the Midcontinent regions, slightly offset by increased forecast production from the natural gas producing division, Questar E&P.

In the fourth quarter, Questar's natural gas production rose 15% and realized prices increased 33%.

Early Wednesday, Questar fell 35 cents to $73.15.

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