TC Pipelines CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

TC Pipelines, LP (TCLP)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 25, 2012 12:00 PM ET


Lee Evans – Manager, IR

Steven Becker – President and CEO

Sandra Ryan-Robinson – Principal Financial Officer and Controller

Stuart Kampel – VP and General Manager


Jeremy Tonet – JP Morgan

Ted Heyn – PointState Capital

Ted Heyn – PointState



Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the TC PipeLines, LP 2012 First Quarter Results.

I would now like to turn the meeting over to Mr. Lee Evans, Manager, Investor Relations. Please go ahead, Mr. Evans.

Lee Evans

Thank you, operator, and good day, everyone. I’d like to welcome you to TC PipeLines first quarter 2012 conference call. I’m joined today by our President, Steve Becker; Principal Financial Officer, Sandra Ryan-Robinson; and Vice President and General Manager, Stuart Kampel.

Please note that a slide presentation will accompany the remarks, which is available on our website at, where it can be found in the Investor section – Investor Center section, under the heading Events & Presentations.

Steve will begin today with a review of TC PipeLines’ first quarter results and provide an update on the various developments concerning the partnership. Sandra will then review – will then proceed to review in detail our financial results for the first quarter. Steve will then return and wrap up the partnership’s prepared remarks with some key takeaways. Following the prepared remarks, I will ask the conference operator to coordinate your questions.

Before we begin, I’d like to remind you that certain statements made during this conference call will be forward-looking regarding future events and our future financial performance. All forward-looking statements are based on our beliefs, as well as assumptions made by and information currently available to us.

These statements reflect our current views with respect to future events and are subject to various risks, uncertainties, and assumptions as discussed in detail in our 2011 10-K as well as our subsequent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. If one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize or if the underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements.

With that, I’d now like to turn the call over to Steve.

Steven Becker

Thanks, Lee, and good day, everyone. If you can reference Slide 4 for the first quarter 2012 financial highlights. For the first quarter of 2012, TC PipeLines generated partnership cash flows of $50 million. During the quarter we paid out $42 million in cash distributions to our unitholders. The partnership’s assets performed reasonably well given the difficult market conditions of unusually warm winter, low gas prices and basis spreads and high storage levels. These conditions impacted Great Lakes results. The other assets in the portfolio continued to perform as expected due to long-term ship or pay contracts on each pipeline system.

Net income in the first quarter was $39 million compared to $42 million in the first quarter last year. The first quarter 2012 net income is equivalent to $0.71 per common unit. The partnership also announced yesterday its first quarter cash distribution in the amount of $0.77 per common unit. This marks the partnership’s 52nd consecutive quarterly distribution paid to our unitholders. The first quarter distribution is in line with our fourth quarter 2011 distribution and represents a 2.7% increase over the same period last year.

Turning to Slide 5, I’d now like to highlight a few of the partnerships business developments that occurred during the winter. Great Lakes volumes were lower in the first quarter compared to last year as its uncontracted capacity wasn’t utilized on a short-term basis to the extent we normally would have expected over the winter months, given all the different challenging market conditions.

Great Lakes was, however, able to re-contract substantially all of its summer capacity at lower rates than those achieved for the same period in 2011. As a result, we expect the Great Lakes net income in the second and third quarter will be down roughly $4 million to $6 million as compared to the same quarters in 2011.

Great Lakes presently is 22% contracted beyond October 2012 and as the summer unfolds, we remain optimistic that a significant amount of its capacity will be re-contracted. Ultimately, Great Lakes’ ability to sell its future available capacity will depend on a number of factors. Some of these factors are weather, levels of natural gas storage, the price of natural gas liquids and the associated impact to natural gas production in North America, and the outcome of TransCanada’s Mainline toll hearing.

Though the present market conditions creates some short-term uncertainty, we still believe in the strong market fundamentals that have typically supported Great Lakes, and as the current market conditions work themselves out, we anticipate the demand for transportation services on Great Lakes will return.

In regards to Northern Border, strong shipper interest continued for its transportation services despite the low gas price environment and overall weak basis spreads across North America. Northern Border remains substantially contracted for all of its capacity through March 2013. For Border’s contracts that recently came up for renewal in the first quarter, the majority of them were renewed for terms of three years or more, demonstrating the strong demand for its transportation services.

In terms of Tuscarora, in March, we received FERC approval on the settlement that was reached at the end of December, pertaining to the Section 5 rate case. The settlement will lower transmission revenues by approximately $6 million on an annual basis, as a result of a lower tariff rate. The tariff rate reduction is offset by a lower composite depreciation rate, which results in a decrease to net income of $3 million per year. As part of the settlement, Tuscarora was able to extend its contracts with its largest shipper for three years, which now means Tuscarora is fully contracted through to the end of 2019.

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