DTE Energy's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

DTE Energy (DTE)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 16, 2012 9:00 am ET


David E. Meador - Chief Financial officer, Executive Vice President and Member of Internal Risk Management Committee

Gerard M. Anderson - Chairman of The Board, Chief Executive Officer, President, Group President of Energy Resources and Member of Internal Risk Management Committee


Dan Eggers - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

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

Jonathan P. Arnold - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Brian Chin - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Paul Patterson - Glenrock Associates LLC

Andrew Levi - Caris & Company, Inc., Research Division



Good day, everyone, and welcome to the DTE Energy Year End 2011 Earnings Release Conference Call. Today's conference is being recorded. At this time, I'd like to turn the call over to Mr. Dave Meador. Please go ahead, sir.

David E. Meador

Thanks, Dana, and I apologize for that music while you were on hold there. We'll get a better selection next time. But good morning, everybody. This is Dave Meador, and welcome to our 2011 Year End Earnings Call. Before we get started, I'd like to remind you to read the Safe Harbor statement on Page 2, including the reference to the forward-looking statements. And with us this morning is Gerry Anderson, our Chairman, President and CEO; Peter Oleksiak, our Vice President and Controller; Nick Khouri, our Vice President and Treasurer; and Mark Rolling, our Director of Investor Relations. We also have members of the management team with us to call on during the Q&A session if needed. And with that opening, I'll turn the call over to Gerry.

Gerard M. Anderson

Thank you, Dave. Good morning to all of you. Thanks for being here with us. I want to start the call by saying that I feel really good about what DTE Energy accomplished in 2011, and that's true on almost every front. As you probably already seen, our earnings for last year finished well ahead of our plan on our most recent guidance, and our cash flow and balance sheet results were strong for the year as well.

So 2011 continued a string of solid earnings and cash flow results for the company in recent years. But our performance is about a lot more than financial results, and in fact, I believe it's only by focusing on a lot of things outside of your financial results that your earnings picture has a chance to be strong and sustainable long-term. And so I spent a lot of time with my leadership team focused on a system of interconnected priorities that I believe are the things we need to be very good at consistently in order to make our recent strong financial performance sustain long-term. There are a lot of companies who produce strong financial performance short-term or for a few years, but the trick is to make that sustain long-term and a lot of discussion here and a lot of focus on how to make that happen. And the system of priorities that we're using to do that is shown on Slide 5, and I'll start by saying I realize that Slide 5 may look like a lot of boxes and arrows to you, but it really is how we're thinking about managing DTE Energy for the long-term. So I want to take a little bit of time describing that system to you and then tell you about the progress we've made against it.

And the priorities start on the left side with what I call the kind of the kingpin or key priority, which is highly engaged employees, and the bottom line is you can't have an excellent company that outperforms if your employees' focus and engagement and energy level is average. And so we really do spend a lot of time trying to build the energy engagement and focus of our people. And if you pull that off, then you have a chance at the next 3 things, which is to deliver really good service to your customers and improve that over time to use a tool that we've spent a lot of time developing here at DTE Energy, continuous improvement, in order to manage the quality and affordability of your products and also, to have your people drive creative growth and value creation. And if you do those 3 things well, then I think you have a shot at sustaining a constructive political and regulatory context, because if your customers are well-served, they're all voters and they shape the political arena. If you don't keep your cost in line by constantly working on affordability that eventually finds its way into the political and regulatory discussion. It's also true that if you can pursue constructive productive growth and that helps from an economic development standpoint in the state it shapes the political and regulatory context. And if you combine a good regulatory context with solid growth, then you have the formula for sustainable financial performance.

So in terms of how we are progressing against these priorities, Slide 6 steps into that. On the employee engagement front, we use something called the Gallup survey. Thousands of U.S. companies do use that. 2011 was the fifth consecutive year that our Gallup score increased. We're now on the 71st percentile of U.S. companies. So that's a good thing, although we have a clear goal of wanting to take that up into the top decile or top 10%.

We're also continuing to improve our safety performance. Another important employee outcome. Our injury rate is down 70% since the mid-2000s. We've got both of our utilities performing at top quartile level. In fact, MichCon has been at top decile level in recent years.

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