Piedmont Natural Gas Reports First Quarter 2011 Results

Company sees increase in margin, lower operations and maintenance expenses during first fiscal quarter.

Mar 11, 2011, 08:00 ET from Piedmont Natural Gas

CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Piedmont Natural Gas (NYSE: PNY) today announced results for the first fiscal quarter ended January 31, 2011. For the quarter, the Company reported net income of $84.4 million, or $1.16 per diluted share, compared to net income of $113.7 million, or $1.55 per diluted share for the same period in 2010.  It was during the first quarter of 2010 that Piedmont sold one-half of its 30 percent membership interest in SouthStar, posting a pre-tax gain on the sale of $49.7 million or $30.2 million after-tax and $0.41 per diluted share.  Piedmont now maintains a 15 percent earnings and ownership interest in SouthStar as a result of the sale.

Piedmont Chairman, President and CEO, Thomas E. Skains, commented on the results, "We are very pleased with the Company's performance during the first quarter.  We continue to see positive customer growth in a challenging economic environment, improvements in our industrial markets and increased wholesale marketing margins.  We believe this is strong evidence of the value that energy consumers place on natural gas.  The market price for natural gas remains affordable and stable even after a start to the winter for us that has been 22 percent colder than normal.  The outlook for clean, efficient, abundant and American natural gas is very bright."

Margin for the quarter was $230 million, an increase of $7.1 million from the prior year's quarter. The increase is primarily attributable to continued customer growth, increased natural gas deliveries to customers due to colder than normal weather, and wholesale marketing activity.

Operations and maintenance expenses totaled $51.1 million during the first quarter of 2011, a decrease of $1.0 million from the first quarter of 2010. The decrease is primarily due to lower bad debt and payroll expenses.

Pre-tax income from Piedmont's joint ventures was $7.8 million compared to $11.8 million for the same period in 2010.  The decrease is primarily due to the Company's new 15 percent ownership interest in SouthStar Energy as of January 1, 2010.

DIVIDEND INCREASED FOR THIRTY-THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR

As previously announced, the Board of Directors on March 4 approved an increase in the Company's quarterly dividend on Common Stock. The new quarterly dividend of 29 cents per share reflects a 3.6 percent increase and will be payable on April 15 to holders of record at the close of business on March 25.

FISCAL 2011 EARNINGS GUIDANCE REAFFIRMED

Piedmont Natural Gas reaffirms its fiscal year 2011 earnings guidance of $1.50 to $1.60 per diluted share.  The Company forecasts a capital expenditure level of $293 million in fiscal year 2011 compared to an original forecast of $313 million.

CONFERENCE CALL

In conjunction with the first-quarter earnings release, you are invited to listen to the conference call that will broadcast live over the Internet on Monday, March 14, 2011 at 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, hosted by Chairman, President and CEO Thomas E. Skains. Log onto the web at www.piedmontng.com and click on Investor Relations, then on Presentations. The conference call will be archived on the Presentation page of the website within the Investor Relations section.

Summary of Operations

(in thousands except per share amounts and degree days)

Three Months Ended

January 31

% Increase

2011

2010

(Decrease)

(Unaudited)

Operating Revenues

$

652,056

$

673,736

(3%)

Cost of Gas

422,050

450,794

(6%)

Margin

230,006

222,942

3%

Operations and Maintenance Expenses

51,058

52,039

(2%)

Depreciation

25,047

24,355

3%

General Taxes

11,097

8,585

29%

Utility Income Taxes

51,935

50,162

4%

Operating Income

90,869

87,801

4%

Other Income (Expense), net

4,588

37,252

(88%)

Utility Interest Charges

11,017

11,304

(3%)

Net Income

84,440

113,749

(26%)

Average Shares of Common Stock:

   Basic

72,194

73,173

(1%)

   Diluted

72,514

73,545

(1%)

Earning Per Share of Common Stock:

   Basic

$

1.17

$

1.55

(25%)

   Diluted

$

1.16

$

1.55

(25%)

System Throughput — Dekatherms

97,844

84,722

16%

Gas Customers Billed in January

980

971

1%

System Average Degree Days — Actual

2,278

2,050

11%

System Average Degree Days — Normal

1,865

1,858

-%

Percent Normal Degree Days

122%

110%

n/a

Forward-Looking Statement  

This press release contains forward-looking statements. These statements are based on management's current expectations and information currently available and are believed to be reasonable and are made in good faith. However, the forward-looking statements are subject to future events, risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in the statements. Factors that may make the actual results differ from anticipated results include, but are not limited to, weather conditions, rate of customer growth, the cost and availability of natural gas, competition from other energy providers, new legislation and regulations and application of existing laws and regulations, economic and capital market conditions, the cost and availability of labor and materials and other uncertainties, all of which are difficult to predict and some of which are beyond our control. For these reasons, you should not rely on these forward-looking statements when making investment decisions. The words "expect," "believe," "project," "anticipate," "intend," "should," "could," "will," "assume," "can," "estimate," "forecast," "future," "indicate," "outlook," "plan," "predict," "seek," "target," "would," and variations of such words and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are only as of the date they are made and we do not undertake any obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statement, either as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. More information about the risks and uncertainties relating to these forward-looking statements may be found in Piedmont's latest Forms 10-K and 10-Q, which are available on the SEC's website at http://www.sec.gov.

About Piedmont Natural Gas

Piedmont Natural Gas is an energy services company primarily engaged in the distribution of natural gas to more than one million residential, commercial and industrial utility customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, including 52,000 customers served by municipalities who are wholesale customers. Our subsidiaries are invested in joint venture, energy-related businesses, including unregulated retail natural gas marketing, interstate natural gas storage and intrastate natural gas transportation. More information about Piedmont Natural Gas is available on the Internet at http://www.piedmontng.com.

SOURCE Piedmont Natural Gas



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