FirstEnergy (FE)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

November 01, 2011 1:00 pm ET

Executives

Peter Sena - Senior Vice President of Operations for Nuclear Division

William D. Byrd - Chief Risk Officer and Vice President of Corporate Risk

Anthony J. Alexander - Chief Executive Officer, President and Executive Director

Irene M. Prezelj -

Mark T. Clark - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Harvey L. Wagner - Chief Accounting Officer, Vice President and Controller

Analysts

Dan Eggers - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Julien Dumoulin-Smith - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Jonathan P. Arnold - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Paul Patterson - Glenrock Associates LLC

Greg Gordon - ISI Group Inc., Research Division

Paul T. Ridzon - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Hugh Wynne - Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division

Dan Jenkins - State of Wisconsin Investment Board

Unknown Analyst -

Raymond M. Leung - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Greetings, and welcome to the FirstEnergy Corp. Third Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Irene Prezelj, Executive Director of Investor Relations for FirstEnergy Corp. Thank you. Ms. Prezelj, you may begin.

Irene M. Prezelj

Thank you, Melissa, and good afternoon. During this conference call, we will make various forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Safe Harbor provision of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that such forward-looking statements with respect to revenues, earnings, performance, strategies, prospects and other aspects of the business of FirstEnergy Corp. are based on current expectations that are subject to risks and uncertainties. A number of factors could cause actual results or outcomes to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements.

Please read the Safe Harbor statement contained in the consolidated report to the financial community, which was released earlier today and is also available on our website under the Earnings Release link. Reconciliations to GAAP for the non-GAAP earnings measures we will be referring to today are also contained in that report, as well as on the Investor Information section on our website at www.firstenergycorp.com/ir.

Participating in today's call are Tony Alexander, President and Chief Executive Officer; Mark Clark, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Harvey Wagner, Vice President and Controller; Jim Pearson, Vice President and Treasurer; Bill Byrd, Vice President of Corporate Risk; Pete Sena, President and COO of FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company; and Ron Seeholzer, Vice President of Investor Relations.

I'll now turn the call over to Tony.

Anthony J. Alexander

Thanks, Irene, and good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. I will provide an update on our merger synergies, the progress with our retail strategy and more details about the expected impact of environmental regulations. Then, Mark will provide an overview of our third quarter results and our progress towards our key financial initiatives, including debt reduction, asset sales and our liquidity position. But before I get started, I'm sure you're all interested in an update on our Davis-Besse nuclear power station, so I'll address that first.

As you know, we began a scheduled outage on October 1 to install a new reactor vessel head and complete other maintenance activities at the unit. After we opened the shield building, we identified hairline cracks in the building's architectural elements. Our team has determined that this cracking does not affect the structural integrity of the shield. During our investigation, we also identified other indications, included among them were subsurface hairline cracks in 2 areas of the shield building similar to those found in the architectural elements. While our overall investigation and analysis continues, we currently expect to safely return Davis-Besse to service around the end of November. I'll note that we have had a good dialogue with the NRC throughout this process. Respecting the remaining outage work, this past weekend, the new reactor head was transported into containment, and our other outage activities are about on schedule. We'll continue to keep you advised and informed of our progress.

Turning now to a review of earnings and our strategic initiatives. Today, we reported solid third quarter results, and I continue to be pleased with the progress we are making toward our goals. While the economy, obviously, still isn't where any of us would like it to be and power markets reflect the continued excess capacity in our region, we are making progress and expect to be well positioned to benefit as conditions improve.

Based on our strong third quarter results and our continued confidence in our business strategy, we are reaffirming this year's non-GAAP earnings guidance of $3.30 to $3.50 per share, as well as 2012 and 2013 non-GAAP guidance of between $3.20 to $3.50 per share.

Let's look now at our merger savings progress. The Allegheny integration process is going very smoothly. The assets and the people are very good fit with our organization, and we remain on track to capture the level of synergies we have previously identified. Through the end of the third quarter, we have completed merger-related initiatives that will allow us to capture approximately $165 million in pretax benefits this year. That's nearly 80% of the merger-related savings we expect to achieve by year end. I'm pleased with our solid execution in this area.

At FirstEnergy Solutions, we continue to expand our retail sales, particularly in the direct commercial and industrial channels and in governmental aggregation. We recently added new communities in both the AEP Ohio and Commonwealth Edison service territories, and FES continues champion new governmental aggregation opportunities. More than 100 communities in Ohio, representing nearly 500,000 households and 15,000 small commercial businesses have governmental aggregation issues on November ballots, including the cities of Cincinnati, Canton, Findlay and Newark. Of course, the outcome of the AEP-ESP case will determine if communities in that service area will be able to take advantage of the program due to the provisions that would effectively limit competition in that service territory until 2014. That decision will impact more than 60 communities that have valid issues up for vote next week.

Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com