Xcel Energy's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Xcel Energy Inc. (XEL)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 26, 2012 11:00 am ET

Executives

Benjamin G.S. Fowke III – Chairman of the Board, President, Chief Executive Officer

Teresa S. Madden – Chief Financial Officer, Senior Vice President

Scott M. Wilensky – Senior Vice President, General Counsel

David M. Sparby – Senior Vice President; Group President of Xcel Energy Services Inc.

George E. Tyson II – Vice President, Treasurer

Analysts

Travis Miller – Morningstar

Ali Agha – SunTrust Robinson Humphrey

Anthony Crudel – Jefferies

Dan Jenkins – State of Wisconsin Investment Board

Timothy Yee – KeyBanc Capital Markets

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Xcel Energy First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. During today’s presentation all parties will be in a listen-only mode. Following the presentation the conference will be open for questions. (Operator Instructions) This conference is being recorded today, April 26, 2012. I will now like to turn the call over to Paul Johnson, Vice President of Investor Relations and Financial Management. Please go ahead.

Paul Johnson

Thank you, and welcome to Xcel Energy’s First Quarter 2012 earnings release conference call. With me today are Ben Fowke, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer; Teresa Madden, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Dave Sparby, Senior Vice President and Group President; Scott Wilensky, Senior Vice President and General Counsel; and George Tyson, Vice President and Treasurer.

This morning we’ll provide you with an update on recent business development, discuss first quarter results, review our 2012 earnings guidance, highlight our strong corporate governance and take your questions.

As a reminder, there are slides that accompany today’s call which are available on our web page. In addition some of the comments we make will contain forward-looking information. Significant factors that could cause results differ from those anticipated are described in our earnings release and our filings with the SEC.

I’ll now turn the call over to Ben Fowke.

Benjamin G.S. Fowke III

Thank you, and good morning. Today we’ve reported first quarter earnings of $0.38 per share compared with $0.42 per share in 2011. I’m sure you’re aware that weather was significantly warmer this quarter, and that had an adverse impact on our results.

However, we’ve initiated actions to help offset the impact of warmer weather and lower than forecasted at electric sale. As a result of our efforts, quarterly O&M expenses came in roughly flat with last year. Looking ahead, we continue to expect 2012 earnings to be in the lower half of our earnings guidance range of $1.75 to $1.85 per share.

Now Teresa will discuss our quarterly results and earnings guidance in greater detail in a few moments. I’ll now provide you with few updates, beginning with the review of our regulatory development.

In Minnesota, we are pleased that the Commission approved our rate case settlement at the end of March. The annual rate increases of $58 million in 2011; $15 million in 2012 are based on 10.37 ROE. This settlement also includes a $30 million reduction through depreciation expense. As part of the settlement in the Minnesota Electric case, the settling parties recognized that NSP Minnesota would follow up the decision sticking deferred accounting for 2012 property tax expense above the level approved in a rate case.

In December, we filed the petition requesting a deferral of incremental 2012 property taxes, which are currently estimated at $24 million. In April, the Department of Commerce recommended that the commission denied the request. However, a coalition of large industrial customers and the Chamber Of Commerce were supportive of our deferred accounting request.

Our earnings guidance reflects the assumption that we are able to defer incremental property taxes in Minnesota. We believe we’ve met their criteria for deferred accounting treatment. Last week, we filed our response to the department’s concern, which provide strong support for our request. We expect the Minnesota PUC to rule on this request during the second quarter.

In Colorado, we arrived at a comprehensive multi-year rate settlement agreement with the PUC staff, the office of consumer counsel and several other intervenors. The agreement reflects a 73 million electric rate increase in 2012; an incremental $16 million increase in 2013; and a $25 million increase in 2014, based on a 10% ROE and a 56% equity ratio.

In addition, the settlement enables us to defer incremental property taxes. We believe this is a constructive settlement that provides revenue and regulatory certainty for both our customers and our shareholders, while establishing a regulatory framework for a multi-year plan. Hearings were held on Tuesday, and the commission is deliberating on the settlement this morning, and may rule later today.

Turning our focus to 2013; in June we plan to file an electric and natural gas case in Wisconsin. During the second half of the year, we plan to file several cases, including electric cases in Texas, New Mexico and North Dakota. Finally, we plan to file an electric case in Minnesota, where we are anticipating pursuing a multi-year plan.

Together these cases will drive earnings in 2013. One final regulatory item. In March, we asked the Minnesota Commission to reaffirm that increasing generating capacity at our Prairie Island nuclear plant within our customer’s best interest. We are seeking a reaffirmation as much as change since the Commission issued a certificate of need for the Prairie Island operate in 2009. Key changes since 2009 include a more lengthy approval process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, less expected incremental output from the plant to operate, higher project costs, lower natural gas prices, as well as lower demand growth.

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