Vectren Corporation's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Vectren Corporation ( VVC)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 16, 2012 2:00 PM ET

Executives

Robert Goocher – VP, IR and Treasurer

Carl Chapman – Chairman, President and CEO

Jerome Benkert – EVP, CFO and President, Shared Services

Presentation

Operator

Good afternoon. My name is Candice, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Vectren Corporation 2011 Yearend Earnings Conference Call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After our speakers’ remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions) Thank you.

Mr. Robert Goocher, Treasurer and VP of Investor Relations, you may begin your call.

Robert Goocher

Thank you, operator. Good afternoon, and thank each of you for joining us on the call to review our 2011 results and 2012 guidance.

This call is being webcast, and shortly following its conclusion, a replay will be available on our website at vectren.com in the Investor Relations section. Late yesterday we released our yearend earnings and this morning we filed our 2011 10-K. Copies of our earnings release, today’s slide presentation and the 10-K can all be found on our website.

As further described in slide two, I would like to remind you that many of the statements made on today’s call will be forward-looking statements. Actual results may differ materially from those discussed in this presentation. Carl Chapman, Vectren’s Chairman, President and CEO, will kick off today’s discussion by providing a few comments on Vectren’s 2011 yearend results, and then discuss our 2012 earnings guidance and supporting strategies.

Then Jerry Benkert, Executive Vice President and CFO, will provide details on the 2012 outlook for our Utility and Nonutility businesses, and will finish with a few summary remarks. Following Jerry’s comments, we will be happy to take your questions. Also joining us on today’s call is Ron Christian, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal and External Affairs Officer.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Carl.

Carl Chapman

Thanks, Robert. I would also like to welcome everyone to today’s call. As always, we appreciate you joining us.

Looking at slide three, I’ll briefly go over our highlights for the year. Overall, we are very pleased with our 2011 results and our earnings growth for the year. Our Utility operations performed very well again this year, supported by the approval of our $28.6 million electric base rate case, which we implemented in early May. While we did not receive authorization and the rate order to proceed with full electric decoupling, we were later granted approvals to expand our efficiency programs for all of our electric customers with the opportunity for lost margin recovery resulting from the implementation of these programs.

On the gas side, we received approval to continue our Indiana natural gas efficiency programs and our decoupling mechanisms for the next four years. And finally, legislation passed in both Indiana and Ohio that is supportive of infrastructure modernization programs. In Indiana, SB251 provides for the recovery of 80% of capital and O&M expenditures associated with federally mandated requirements outside of base rate filings, with the remaining 20% deferred for recovery until next rate case.

In Ohio, the legislation only applies the capital expenditures, but is much broader in terms of the types of capital expenditures that are covered. On February 3, we initiated a filing under this HB95 for about $25 million of our 2012 Ohio gas expenditures seeking deferral authority for post in-service depreciation, ongoing deferral of carrying costs and property taxes until a future rate case filing.

On the Nonutility side, as you’ll recall, at the beginning of 2011 we outlined our strategy for our Nonutility portfolio businesses, which included a focus on growing our infrastructure services and energy services businesses in order to reduce the reliance on earnings growth from our commodity sensitive businesses.

Consistent with that strategy, in late March we announced the acquisition of Minnesota Limited, a complementary addition to Miller Pipeline in our Infrastructure Services segment. The addition of Minnesota Limited contributed $0.11 per share, well above our initial expectations of $0.02 to $0.04 of EPS. I’ll discuss this further in just a few minutes.

To close the year, we sold Vectren Source, our retail gas marketing company, for proceeds of approximately $84 million and an estimated gain of $12.4 million net of all tax effects. Both amounts are subject to final adjustment for working capital. We believe this is the right time to move forward with the sale of Vectren Source and realize the value in this business that was built from the ground up over the last several years. We found a logical buyer in Direct Energy that is already an active participant in the retail energy markets and is willing to put additional capital to work to continue to grow the business.

The sale of Source coupled with the acquisition of Minnesota Limited has helped to reduce our earnings exposure to the more volatile commodities markets, again consistent with the strategy we discussed at the beginning of 2011. In addition, it demonstrates Vectren’s disciplined approach to regularly assessing each of our Nonutility businesses to determine whether they continue to be a strategic fit for Vectren.

We also highlighted a couple of specific items beyond normal growth expected in our various businesses to help offset the loss of the Source earning stream for 2012 and beyond. 2011 also saw the ramp-up of production at our new Oaktown 1 mine, which produced 2.7 million tons of coal for the year and is approaching its full capacity of approximately 3 million tons. In addition, we continued the development of the second Oaktown mine, with a targeted startup in the third quarter of 2012 depending upon demand.

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