Northeast Utilities (NU)

Q2 2012 Earnings Call

July 31, 2012 9:00 am ET


Jeffrey R. Kotkin - Executive Officer

James J. Judge - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Leon J. Olivier - Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President

Philip J. Lembo - Vice President and Treasurer

James J. Judge - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President


Travis Miller - Morningstar Inc., Research Division

Paul Patterson - Glenrock Associates LLC

Caroline Bone - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

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

Maurice E. May - Wellington Shields & Co., LLC, Research Division

Steven I. Fleishman - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Andrew Weisel - Macquarie Research

Jonathan Reeder - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division



Welcome to the Northeast Utilities Q2 earnings call. My name is Sandra, and I will be your operator for today's call. [Operator Instructions] Please note that this conference is being recorded. I will now turn the call over to Mr. Jeffrey Kotkin. Mr. Kotkin, you may begin.

Jeffrey R. Kotkin

Thank you very much. Good morning, and thank you for joining us. I'm Jeff Kotkin, NU's Vice President for Investor Relations. Speaking today will be Jim Judge, NU Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Lee Olivier, NU Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Also joining us today are Jay Buth, our Controller; Phil Lembo, our Treasurer; and John Moreira, Director of Corporate Financial Forecasting and Investor Relations.

Before we begin, I'd like to remind you that some of the statements made during this investor call may be forward-looking as defined within the meaning of the Safe Harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are subject to risk and uncertainty, which may cause the actual results to differ materially from forecast and projections. Some of these factors are set forth in the news release issued yesterday. If you have not yet seen that news release, it is posted on our website at

Additional information about the various factors that may cause actual results to differ can be found in our annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2011, and our 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2012. Additionally, our explanation of how and why we use certain non-GAAP measures is contained within our news release and in our most recent 10-K and 10-Q. Now, I will turn over the call to Jim.

James J. Judge

Thank you, Jeff. There are several items I'll cover before turning the call over to Lee for his report on operations. First, I want to say that we're very pleased with the results for the first quarter as a merged company. We achieved the financial results we have targeted, experienced very strong operational results, made significant progress on our capital projects and made a strong start in integrating the 2 companies and achieving the synergies that we've discussed with you.

For the first time, NU's financial results include NSTAR's results of operations. As you can see from the earnings news release we issued yesterday, we are providing results in some granularity. We also want to ensure that we provide enough detail so that you can identify our onetime merger-related costs in the quarter, including $46 million of customer rate credits, as well as identifying our earnings on a recurring basis. We hope you find this clear and helpful.

In addition to financial results, I will also cover key legislative and regulatory issues, including the recent draft decision from the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority regarding our storm restoration efforts in Connecticut last year. The third area I will cover is the progress we have made in the financing arena with regards to new credit facilities and related commercial paper programs that were put in place just last week. Lastly, I will briefly discuss the on-going integration process that is well underway as we move forward in creating a high-performing customer-responsive and efficient organization.

Let me start with a brief discussion of our second quarter results. Excluding merger-related costs, we earned $0.45 per share this year compared to $0.44 last year. There were several items that contributed to this $0.01 change, which equates to about a 2.3% earnings increase.

First, the addition of NSTAR to NU's reported results had a very positive impact as NSTAR Electric's distribution and transmission operations contributed approximately $0.19 to the quarter's results. However, the impact of these earnings was exactly offset by the higher level of shares outstanding, which increased to 314 million shares from NU's 177 million shares last year as a result of the merger.

Second, transmission earnings from CL&P, public service in New Hampshire and Western Mass together increased the quarter's results by about $0.05 per share and reflect our continued investment in transmission infrastructure. That increase occurred primarily in Western Mass where earnings more than doubled this quarter as a result of the pace of investment in the Greater Springfield Project.

NU parent and other company earnings also had a positive impact on the quarter, contributing about $0.03 per share versus 2011. Reflecting NSTAR communications earnings, as well as lower interest expense at the parent.

Factors that had a negative impact on the quarter included an increase in O&M costs, which reduced earnings by approximately $0.02 per share. That decline was due primarily to higher nontracked pension and health care costs. An increase in other operating costs, primarily related to higher depreciation and amortization and higher property taxes, reduced earnings by another $0.03 per share. A decline in Electric sales reduced earnings by $0.01 per share and can be largely attributable to successful implementation of various energy efficiency programs. And lastly, higher interest expense cost us another $0.01 per share. These results were very much in line with our internal expectations and spot on with Wall Street's estimate for the quarter.

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