NSTAR's Management Discuss Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

NSTAR (NST)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

January 27, 2012 09:00 AM ET

Executives

Jim Judge – SVP and CFO, NSTAR

John Moreira – Investor Relations

 Phil Lembo – Vice President and Treasurer

Analysts

Maurice May – Power Insights

Caroline Bone - Deutsche Bank

David Paz – Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Mark Barnett – Morningstar Financial Company

Presentation

Operator

Good day Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome to the Fourth Quarter 2011 NSTAR Earnings Conference Call. My name is Janeta and I will be your operator for today. At this time, all participants are in listen-only-mode. Later we will conduct a question-and-answer session. (Operator instructions). As a reminder, this conference is being recorded for replay purposes.

I would now like to turn the conference over to your host for today, Mr. John Moreira. Please proceed.

John Moreira

Thank you and good morning everyone. I would like to welcome you to NSTAR’s conference call to discuss our reported earnings for the fourth quarter and the full year of 2011. We will also provide an update on the mergers progress. With me today are Jim Judge, NSTAR’s Chief Financial Officer and Phil Lembo, Vice President and Treasurer.

Before we get started with Jim’s formal remarks, let me remind you that some of the information discussed during this conference call will contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Federal Security Laws. These forward-looking statements may contain statements about the benefits of the merger transaction, whether and when the transaction will be consummated, the combined company’s plans and other statements that are not historical facts.

You are cautioned that such forward-looking statements with respect to the business of NSTAR independent merger are based on current expectations that involve risks, assumptions and uncertainties that are difficult to predict or control. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees and management cautions that a number of factors could cause actual results or outcomes to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements.

NSTAR specifically disclaims any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information due to developments or otherwise. I refer you to the cautionary language regarding forward-looking statements and other matters included in our merger related filings. I also refer you to the risk factors disclosed at the NSTAR and North East Utilities included in their proxy statement dated January 5, 2011 and subsequent reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. You are urged to read these materials which can be obtained free of charge from the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov or from NSTAR’s website at www.nstar.com.

Now I will turn the call over to Jim Judge, NSTAR’s CFO.

Jim Judge

Thanks John. And let me also welcome everyone to today’s call. Yesterday we reported fourth quarter results for 2011 of $0.53 which is adjusted to exclude the cost of $0.01 per share associated with the pending merger with North East Utilities. And it compares to $0.49 for the same period last year that was adjusted by $0.04 for onetime items related to the merger and the sale of our district energy business. This results in an increase for the quarter of $0.04.

Primary positive drivers for the $0.04 increase include three items. Each one of these three items contributed above $0.03 to earnings for the quarter. They include; higher transmission revenues as a result of projects being completed during the quarter, that gave us $0.03. Second, an increase in lost base revenues associated with energy efficiency programs, reflecting the incremental energy efficiency provided to customers as part of the three year State wide program, that gave us $0.03 as well. Third, the final $0.03 item is lower operations and maintenance expense.

Another positive factor for the quarter was higher revenue from our telecommunication operations which contributed $0.01 for the quarter.

The positive impact of these items was somewhat offset by first, a decline in revenues from our gas operations as gas sales declined 14.2% impacting earnings by $0.03. Second, a 1.8% decrease in electric sales which reduced earnings for the quarter by $0.02. Both of these sales declines reflect the impact of mild weather conditions, as heating degree days in our region declined by more than 20% for the quarter compared to last year. Third, an increase in depreciation and property taxes which negatively impacted earnings by $0.02 driven by our continued investments in the electric and gas system infrastructure. In closing out the reconciliation for the quarter is a positive $0.01 attributed to all other operating items.

Just a quick comment on the local economy. Economic conditions here in Massachusetts are improving and continue to be better than economic conditions at the national level. Our State’s unemployment rate of 6.8% is the lowest it's been in three years and compares very favorably to the national rate of 8.5%. Current employment levels here in Massachusetts have improved since the start of the year, and have grown at a faster pace than US employment levels over the same period. An encouraging trend for us that should help us going forward.

Now I’ll cover the most significant factors that affected the full year 2011 earnings results. After excluding nonrecurring items from 2010 and merger related costs from 2011 and 2010, adjusted earnings per share for 2011 amounted to $2.65 compared to $2.56 last year, an increase of 3.5%. This result was in line with both our guidance range of $2.60 to $2.75 and Wall Street’s expectations.

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