Press Release: National Fuel Reports First -3-
The Utility segment's first quarter GAAP earnings decreased $3.5 million versus the prior year primarily due to higher O&M expense and a higher effective income tax rate. The $2.4 million increase in O&M expense was primarily attributable to incremental expense recorded to increase the allowance for uncollectible accounts due to the potential for customer non-payment resulting from the current economic backdrop brought on by COVID-19, as well as higher personnel costs. Warmer than normal weather in Distribution's Pennsylvania service territory resulted in a decline in customer usage and margin, which was largely offset by higher revenues earned through the Company's system modernization tracking mechanism in its New York service territory. Weather in Distribution's Pennsylvania service territory was 11% warmer on average than last year, and 17% warmer than normal. The impact of weather variations on earnings in Distribution's New York service territory is largely mitigated by that jurisdiction's weather normalization clause. The increase in the Utility segment's effective income tax rate was primarily due to the non-recurring impact of permanent book versus tax differences.
Corporate and All Other
The Company's operations that are included in Corporate and All Other generated combined earnings of $39.6 million in the current year first quarter, which was a $37.6 million increase over combined earnings of $2.0 million generated in the prior-year first quarter. The increase was primarily driven by a gain recognized on the sale of the Company's timber properties of $51.1 million ($37.0 million after-tax). The Company completed the sale of substantially all of its timber assets in Pennsylvania on December 10, 2020 for net proceeds of $104.6 million. The proceeds from this sale were used to complete a reverse like-kind exchange in conjunction with the Company's fourth quarter fiscal 2020 Appalachian acquisition of certain upstream assets and midstream gathering assets.
The Company will host a conference call on Friday, February 5, 2021, at 11 a.m. Eastern Time to discuss this announcement. Pre-registration is required to access the teleconference by phone in a listen-only mode by following this link: http://www.directeventreg.com/registration/event/9363257. To access the webcast, visit the Events Calendar under the News & Events page on the NFG Investor Relations website at investor.nationalfuelgas.com. A replay of the conference call will be available approximately two hours following the teleconference at the same website link and by phone (toll-free) at 800-585-8367 using conference ID number "9363257". Both the webcast and conference call replay will be available until the close of business on Friday, February 12, 2021.
National Fuel is an integrated energy company reporting financial results for four operating segments: Exploration and Production, Pipeline and Storage, Gathering, and Utility. Additional information about National Fuel is available at www.nationalfuelgas.com.
Certain statements contained herein, including statements identified by the use of the words "anticipates," "estimates," "expects," "forecasts," "intends," "plans," "predicts," "projects," "believes," "seeks," "will," "may" and similar expressions, and statements which are other than statements of historical facts, are "forward-looking statements" as defined by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results or outcomes to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements. The Company's expectations, beliefs and projections contained herein are expressed in good faith and are believed to have a reasonable basis, but there can be no assurance that such expectations, beliefs or projections will result or be achieved or accomplished. In addition to other factors, the following are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements: the length and severity of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, including its impacts across our businesses on demand, operations, global supply chains and liquidity; changes in economic conditions, including global, national or regional recessions, and their effect on the demand for, and customers' ability to pay for, the Company's products and services; changes in the price of natural gas or oil; impairments under the SEC's full cost ceiling test for natural gas and oil reserves; the creditworthiness or performance of the Company's key suppliers, customers and counterparties; financial and economic conditions, including the availability of credit, and occurrences affecting the Company's ability to obtain financing on acceptable terms for working capital, capital expenditures and other investments, including any downgrades in the Company's credit ratings and changes in interest rates and other capital market conditions; changes in laws, regulations or judicial interpretations to which the Company is subject, including those involving derivatives, taxes, safety, employment, climate change, other environmental matters, real property, and exploration and production activities such as hydraulic fracturing; delays or changes in costs or plans with respect to Company projects or related projects of other companies, including disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as difficulties or delays in obtaining necessary governmental approvals, permits or orders or in obtaining the cooperation of interconnecting facility operators; the Company's ability to complete planned strategic transactions; the Company's ability to successfully integrate acquired assets and achieve expected cost synergies; governmental/regulatory actions, initiatives and proceedings, including those involving rate cases (which address, among other things, target rates of return, rate design and retained natural gas), environmental/safety requirements, affiliate relationships, industry structure, and franchise renewal; changes in price differentials between similar quantities of natural gas or oil sold at different geographic locations, and the effect of such changes on commodity production, revenues and demand for pipeline transportation capacity to or from such locations; the impact of information technology disruptions, cybersecurity or data security breaches; factors affecting the Company's ability to successfully identify, drill for and produce economically viable natural gas and oil reserves, including among others geology, lease availability, title disputes, weather conditions, shortages, delays or unavailability of equipment and services required in drilling operations, insufficient gathering, processing and transportation capacity, the need to obtain governmental approvals and permits, and compliance with environmental laws and regulations; increasing health care costs and the resulting effect on health insurance premiums and on the obligation to provide other post-retirement benefits; other changes in price differentials between similar quantities of natural gas or oil having different quality, heating value, hydrocarbon mix or delivery date; the cost and effects of legal and administrative claims against the Company or activist shareholder campaigns to effect changes at the Company; uncertainty of oil and gas reserve estimates; significant differences between the Company's projected and actual production levels for natural gas or oil; changes in demographic patterns and weather conditions; changes in the availability, price or accounting treatment of derivative financial instruments; changes in laws, actuarial assumptions, the interest rate environment and the return on plan/trust assets related to the Company's pension and other post-retirement benefits, which can affect future funding obligations and costs and plan liabilities; economic disruptions or uninsured losses resulting from major accidents, fires, severe weather, natural disasters, terrorist activities or acts of war; significant differences between the Company's projected and actual capital expenditures and operating expenses; or increasing costs of insurance, changes in coverage and the ability to obtain insurance. The Company disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date thereof.
NATIONAL FUEL GAS COMPANY
As discussed on page 2, the Company is revising its earnings guidance for fiscal 2021. Additional details on the Company's forecast assumptions and business segment guidance are outlined in the table below.
The revised earnings guidance range does not include the impact of certain items that impacted the comparability of earnings during the first quarter, including: (1) the after-tax impairment of oil and gas properties, which reduced earnings by $0.60 per share; (2) the after-tax gain on sale of timber properties, which increased earnings by $0.40 per share; and (3) the after-tax unrealized loss on other investments, which reduced earnings by $0.01 per share. While the Company expects to record additional adjustments to unrealized gain or loss on other investments during the nine months ending September 30, 2021, the amounts of these and other potential adjustments are not reasonably determinable at this time. As such, the Company is unable to provide earnings guidance other than on a non-GAAP basis.
(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires
February 04, 2021 16:45 ET (21:45 GMT)