Two days after its would-be acquirer Energy Transfer Equity (ETE) filed a countersuit against the company, Williams (WMB - Get Report) took a silent stance on it's planned merger agreement during its conference call Thursday.
Management refused to field analysts' questions on the deal and said only that it's committed to enforcing its rights under agreement and committed to delivering benefits of the transaction to shareholders.
Williams reported 2016 first quarter adjusted earnings of 3 cents per share after the market close Wednesday, below analysts' estimates for 22 cents per share.
First quarter adjusted Ebitda was $1.056 billion, however, up from $1.07 billion in the previous quarter and $918 million a year ago, as management said it's in a turnaround season, which it expects to be prolonged throughout the remainder of the year.
Its publicly traded master limited partnership Williams Partners (WPZ) , meanwhile, reported first quarter adjusted earnings of 6 cents per share compared with a 14 cents loss per share in the same period last year. WPZ reported first quarter Ebitda of $1 billion, slightly below the analysts' consensus of $1.1 billion.
Despite lackluster earnings, Williams shares surged as high as 6.5% above its Wednesday close of $19.24 per share to $20.49 apiece, while WPZ also traded up more than 5% to nearly $29.50 per share.
That may be in part due to ETE taking the opposite stance on its conference earlier call this morning in which it expressed further doubts that the $37 billion merger with Williams will go through, TheStreet reported.
Williams finds itself in a sticky situation, as it wants to enforce the merger agreement with ETE, but the latter now appears to be doing anything it can do get out of a deal. Either party can walk away from the deal if it's not closed by June 28.
After initially rebuffing ETE's overtures, Williams agreed to a $37.7 billion deal in September, tossing aside a $13.8 billion plan to gobble up WPZ. If a deal with ETE fails, it begs the question: Will Williams try to rekindle a romance between itself and its partnership?
Analysts did not have much to offer on a long-term bright side for WMB without a deal, but management said it continues to explore options, including multiple asset sales, to decrease its debt load and position it for growth in 2017.
One positive note for shareholders of WMB is the company may indeed be declaring a dividend for the quarter. Jeffries analyst Christopher Sighinolfi wrote Tuesday that while WMB has yet to formally declare a first quarter dividend, page 9 of the company's analyst package indicates first quarter cash dividends of 64 cents per share, which is flat quarter-over-quarter and up 10% year-over-year.
Management provided some assurances to that note on its Wednesday call as well, stating that while the board continues to review its dividend policy, its main focus on deleveraging will be asset monetization.
But Sighinolfi cautioned that the deal remains a pivotal aspect in both WMB and ETE's valuation prospects. Currently the analyst rates both WMB and WPZ a Buy, with share price targets at $30 and $39, respectively.
Despite Williams' refusal to shed light on where it stands in regards to the merger agreement, WPZ investors will be happy to know the MLP is not waiting around for the situation to play out.
WPZ is "taking cost-cutting steps into their own hands with a 10% workforce cut" Tudor, Pickering & Holt analysts noted Tuesday. The firm estimates the cuts to worth $70 million per year.
With the two sides so far a part on their merger agreement, one is left in the dark as to where share prices will land on the news of a failed deal. Unlike last week's failed deal between oilfield services giants Baker Hughes (BHI) and Halliburton (HAL - Get Report) , Williams has no $3.5 billion termination fee to put to work if ETE walks away.
--David Marcus contributed to this report.