American Electric Power's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

American Electric Power (AEP)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 20, 2012 9:00 am ET


Charles E. Zebula - Senior Vice President and Treasurer

Nicholas K. Akins - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Brian X. Tierney - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Robert P. Powers - Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President

David M. Feinberg - Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Secretary, General Counsel of American Electric Power Service Corp, Senior Vice President of American Electric Power Service Corp


Greg Gordon - ISI Group Inc., Research Division

Dan Eggers - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

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

Jonathan P. Arnold - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Jim von Riesemann

Anthony C. Crowdell - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

Stephen Byrd - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Michael J. Lapides - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Steven I. Fleishman - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Ali Agha - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Andrew Bischof - Morningstar Inc., Research Division



Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Chuck Zebula. Please go ahead.

Charles E. Zebula

Thank you, Linda. Good morning, and welcome to the First Quarter 2012 Earnings Webcast of American Electric Power. Our earnings release, presentation slides and related financial information are available on our website Today, we will be making forward-looking statements during the call. There are many factors that may cause future results to differ materially from these statements. Please refer to our SEC filings for a discussion of these factors.

Joining me this morning for opening remarks are Nick Akins, our President and Chief Executive Officer; and Brian Tierney, our Chief Financial Officer. We will take your questions following their remarks. I will now turn the call over to Nick.

Nicholas K. Akins

Thanks, Chuck, and thank you, everyone, for joining us today on AEP's First Quarter 2012 Earnings Call. It has been a great quarter for us, I think. From an overall viewpoint, AEP has done very well in terms of financial performance.

We delivered GAAP ongoing earnings of $0.80 a share, which is positive, given some significant headwinds of the mild weather, low natural gas prices impacts on all systems sales and the Ohio customer switch. The story demonstrates the value of the diversity of AEP's service footprint and our ability to control costs to respond to these headwinds.

Industrials continue to improve, while commercial and residential still struggle. I think it's an indication of the economy and how much of an issue it is with the recovery of the economy at this point in time. And I think as we progress, though, there's some fundamentals within AEP's service territory, primary metals and oil and gas activity, that are contributing to positive success for our territories.

With that said, we can't reaffirm guidance because of the significant area of risk involving the Ohio situation and the transition to competition, which I'll discuss in more detail a little bit later.

With the Ohio risk, we're still committed to our long-term strategy we've set out for you on February 10 namely: Movement to competitive environment, we will continue to move to that competitive environment in Ohio. We're embracing it. We support it with the corporate separation that goes along with it and the formation of our competitive generation in retail and marketing functions.

Our investment, our regulated businesses, obviously, will continue as well. Our focus on the growth aspects and repositioning of the company around transmission and other growth areas will be significant. The dividend strength is still provided and secured by the regulated businesses. And we have a continued commitment to the 4% to 6% long-term earnings growth rate that we've discussed in February 10.

The transformation or our generation resources, in response to the market and EPA mandates, is going to be an opportunity for us because we will deploy capital to do that, and we've seen the latest EPA rules, and Mark McCullough and our generation area certainly has worked out a capital path that makes sense for us going forward.

So we have made progress in the first quarter on several fronts. On March 7, we issued $800 million of TCC transition funding bonds, an attractive average interest rate of 2.28%, which compared favorably to similar recently priced deals. Proceeds of the bond issue were used to fund the capital program, reduce TCC debt and contribute to the pension, which is now 90% funded.

On March 8, we completed the acquisition of BlueStar Energy, the retail organization based in Chicago that participates in deregulated retail markets and provides energy services such as DSM type activities. Integration of BlueStar with AEP retail is progressing very well and is on schedule, and we now have over 100,000 customers and growing quickly in that area.

I'm pleased with the progress in our reposition of the transmission business. Earnings from transmission continue to improve, and with the recently announced Transource JV with Kansas City Power & Light, Great Plains Energy, and our continued formation with Transco's in our service territory, we continue to deliver more near-term projects to achieve the critical mass for future growth.

Transource is an addition to the capital plan. We believe that it was a great project for us. It shows that critical mass in near-term on the joint venture, although there's not much spend in the first 2 years. It really does pick up in '14, '15, '16. So that graph that we provided for you back in February that had sort of a dampened look toward the later years, as we represented, was really based upon firm, known projects with little risk, and we wanted to show it that way. And now, with the addition of Transource, you're going to see that portion of it sort of kick up in those later years that is shown in that graph.

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