National Fuel Reports First Quarter Earnings

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National Fuel Reports First Quarter Earnings

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- National Fuel Gas Company ("National Fuel" or the "Company") (NYS: NFG) today announced consolidated earnings for the first quarter of its 2013 fiscal year (the quarter ended December 31, 2012).

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Earnings for the first quarter of fiscal 2013 of $67.9 million, or $0.81 per share, increased $7.2 million, or $0.08 per share, compared to $60.7 million, or $0.73 per share, for the prior year's first quarter. The increase is mainly due to higher earnings in the Utility segment, the Pipeline and Storage segment, and the All Other category.
  • Seneca Resources Corporation's ("Seneca") first quarter production of crude oil and natural gas increased 6.3 billion cubic feet equivalent ("Bcfe"), or approximately 34%, to 24.5 Bcfe. Appalachian production increased approximately 48% to 19.5 Bcfe, including production from the Marcellus Shale of 17.8 Bcfe.
  • In the current year's first quarter, Seneca recorded a $3.7 million (pre-tax) charge related to the termination of a drilling rig contract. Seneca continues to operate three horizontal drilling rigs in Appalachia. Excluding this charge, Seneca's first quarter earnings were down only $1.2 million, or $0.01 per share, despite realized natural gas prices that were 14% lower than the prior year's first quarter.
  • In the Pipeline and Storage segment, first quarter earnings of $16.9 million, or $0.20 per share, increased 70% compared to the prior year's first quarter. The increase is largely driven by increased gas flows through the Northern Access and Line N 2012 Expansion pipeline projects that were placed in service in the first quarter.
  • The Company is revising its GAAP earnings guidance range for fiscal 2013 to a range of $2.75 to $3.00 per share. The previous earnings guidance had been a range of $2.65 to $2.95 per share. This revised guidance assumes flat NYMEX equivalent pricing of $3.50 per Million British Thermal Units ("MMBtu") for natural gas (Henry Hub) and $85 per barrel ("Bbl") for crude oil (West Texas Intermediate) for unhedged production for the remainder of the fiscal year. Production for the entire 2013 fiscal year is projected to be between 102 to 112 Bcfe. The previous guidance for projected production was between 95 and 107 Bcfe.
  • A conference call is scheduled for Friday, February 8, 2013, at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

MANAGEMENT COMMENTS

David F. Smith, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of National Fuel Gas Company, stated: "Fiscal 2013 is off to a very impressive start, with the first quarter delivering strong financial and operational results across the system. Our efforts to grow our E&P and midstream businesses continue to gain momentum, and the growth that we forecasted is being delivered. The success of our recent midstream expansion initiatives, with five projects completed since the fall of 2011, is evidence of both the strategic location of our system and of our ability to efficiently conceive and construct projects that are critical to our customers' success. In addition, the recent impressive results from our Marcellus Shale acreage in Lycoming County will help drive our increased production outlook for the years to come.

"With the remarkable success we have been achieving, we are able to raise our outlook for the remainder of this year. We're proud of our accomplishments and remain focused on delivering long-term value to our shareholders."

SUMMARY OF RESULTS

National Fuel had consolidated earnings for the quarter ended December 31, 2012, of $67.9 million, or $0.81 per share, compared to the prior year's first quarter of $60.7 million, or $0.73 per share, an increase of $7.2 million or $0.08 per share. The increase is mainly due to higher earnings in the Utility segment, the Pipeline and Storage segment, and the All Other category, offset by lower earnings in the Exploration and Production segment. (Note: All references to earnings per share are to diluted earnings per share, all amounts are stated in U.S. dollars and all amounts used in the discussion of earnings are after tax unless otherwise noted.)

DISCUSSION OF RESULTS BY SEGMENT

The following discussion of the earnings of each segment is summarized in a tabular form at pages 7 and 8 of this report. It may be helpful to refer to those tables while reviewing this discussion.

Exploration and Production Segment

The Exploration and Production segment operations are carried out by Seneca Resources Corporation ("Seneca"). Seneca explores for, develops and produces natural gas and oil reserves in California, Appalachia and Kansas.

The Exploration and Production segment's earnings in the first quarter of fiscal 2013 of $26.7 million, or $0.32 per share, decreased $3.6 million, or $0.04 per share, when compared with the prior year's first quarter. Earnings were reduced by a $3.7 million (pre-tax) charge related to the termination of a contract for a drilling rig that had been idled since June 2012. The contract was terminated as a result of the rig being utilized by another company. The rig was idled as part of Seneca's previously reported overall plan to reduce Appalachian capital spending in response to lower gas prices. Seneca continues to operate three horizontal drilling rigs in Appalachia. Excluding this charge, earnings decreased $1.2 million or $0.01 per share.

Overall production of natural gas and crude oil for the current quarter of 24.5 Bcfe increased approximately 6.3 Bcfe, or 34.4 percent, compared to the prior year's first quarter. Production from Seneca's Appalachia properties increased approximately 48.3 percent, mainly due to a 6.5 Bcfe, or 57.5 percent increase in production from Marcellus wells. California production of 5.0 Bcfe was consistent with the prior year's first quarter.

Changes in commodity prices realized after hedging also impacted earnings. The weighted average natural gas price received by Seneca (after hedging) for the quarter ended December 31, 2012, was $4.09 per thousand cubic feet ("Mcf"), a decrease of $0.69 per Mcf compared to the prior year's first quarter. Higher crude oil prices realized after hedging increased earnings. The weighted average oil price received by Seneca (after hedging) for the quarter ended December 31, 2012, was $96.69 per Bbl, an increase of $5.31 per Bbl.

Depletion and lease operating expenses ("LOE") for the current year's first quarter increased over last year's first quarter due to the higher production activity discussed above. On a per unit basis, depletion decreased $0.15 per thousand cubic feet equivalent ("Mcfe") due to higher crude oil and natural gas reserve balances at December 31, 2012, compared to the prior year. LOE increased $0.03 per Mcfe mainly due to higher transportation costs in the East and higher well repair costs in California. Earnings were also reduced by higher interest expense, due to a higher outstanding debt balance.

Pipeline and Storage Segment

The Pipeline and Storage segment operations are carried out by National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation ("Supply Corporation") and Empire Pipeline, Inc. ("Empire"). The Pipeline and Storage segment provides natural gas transportation and storage services to affiliated and non-affiliated companies through an integrated system of pipelines and underground natural gas storage fields in western New York and western Pennsylvania.

The Pipeline and Storage segment's earnings of $16.9 million, or $0.20 per share, for the quarter ended December 31, 2012, increased $7.0 million, or $0.08 per share, when compared with the same period in the prior fiscal year. The increase in earnings is mainly due to higher non-affiliated transportation revenues from the Northern Access and Line N 2012 Expansion projects, which were completed and placed in service in the current year's first quarter. Earnings also increased due to lower depreciation expense, which was largely driven by a reduction in Supply Corporation's depreciation rates as required by its 2012 rate case settlement.

Utility Segment

The Utility segment operations are carried out by National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation ("Distribution"), which sells or transports natural gas to customers located in western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania.

The Utility segment's earnings of $22.9 million, or $0.27 per share, for the quarter ended December 31, 2012, increased $3.5 million or $0.04 per share. Colder weather and lower operating expenses were the primary reasons for the increase in earnings in the current year's first quarter. Temperatures in Pennsylvania were 10.3 percent colder in the current year's first quarter than the first quarter of 2012, which had a significant impact on Pennsylvania earnings. In New York, the colder weather did not have a significant impact on earnings for the quarter because the impact of weather variations is mitigated by that jurisdiction's weather normalization clause.

Energy Marketing Segment

National Fuel Resources, Inc. ("NFR") comprises the Company's Energy Marketing segment. NFR markets natural gas to industrial, wholesale, commercial, public authority and residential customers primarily in western and central New York and northwestern Pennsylvania, offering competitively priced natural gas to its customers.

The Energy Marketing segment's earnings for the quarter ended December 31, 2012, of $0.5 million increased $0.1 million from the prior year's first quarter earnings of $0.4 million. The increase was mainly due to lower operating expenses during the current year's first quarter.

Corporate and All Other

The Corporate and All Other category includes the following active, wholly owned subsidiaries of the Company: National Fuel Gas Midstream Corporation ("Midstream"), formed to build, own and operate natural gas processing and pipeline gathering facilities in the Appalachian region; and the Northeast division of Seneca Resources Corporation that markets high quality hardwoods from Appalachian land holdings.

The Corporate and All Other category earnings of $1.0 million, for the quarter ended December 31, 2012, increased $0.3 million compared to the prior year's first quarter. The increase in earnings is mainly due to higher earnings from Midstream's pipeline gathering and natural gas processing operation. Midstream's Trout Run gathering system in Lycoming County, Pa., and its Covington gathering system in Tioga County, Pa., have provided the critical gathering infrastructure for transporting Seneca's Marcellus Shale production to the interstate pipeline system.

EARNINGS GUIDANCE

The Company is updating its earnings guidance for fiscal 2013 to reflect actual first quarter results and an increase in our production range. The revised GAAP earnings range is $2.75 to $3.00 per share. The previous earnings guidance had been a range of $2.65 to $2.95 per share. This revised guidance includes forecast oil and gas production for fiscal 2013 for the Exploration and Production segment in the range between 102 and 112 Bcfe (previous production range was between 95 and 107), hedges currently in place, and NYMEX equivalent pricing of $3.50 per MMBtu for natural gas and $85 per Bbl for crude oil for unhedged production for the remainder of the fiscal year.

EARNINGS TELECONFERENCE

The Company will host a conference call on Friday, February 8, 2013, at 11 a.m. (Eastern Time) to discuss this announcement. There are two ways to access this call. For those with Internet access, visit the investor relations page at National Fuel's website at investor.nationalfuelgas.com. For those without Internet access, access is also provided by dialing (toll-free) 1-866-700-6067 and using the passcode "69013483." For those unable to listen to the live conference call, a replay will be available at approximately 2 p.m. (Eastern Time) at the same website link and by phone at (toll-free) 1-888-286-8010 using passcode "47931748." Both the webcast and telephonic replay will be available until the close of business on Friday, February 15, 2013.

National Fuel is an integrated energy company with $6.1 billion in assets comprised of the following four operating segments: Exploration and Production, Pipeline and Storage, Utility, and Energy Marketing. Additional information about National Fuel is available atwww.nationalfuelgas.com or through its investor information service at 1-800-334-2188.

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: 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; 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; changes in the price of natural gas or oil; impairments under the SEC's full cost ceiling test for natural gas and oil reserves; 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; governmental/regulatory actions, initiatives and proceedings, including those involving rate cases (which address, among other things, allowed rates of return, rate design and retained natural gas), environmental/safety requirements, affiliate relationships, industry structure, and franchise renewal; delays or changes in costs or plans with respect to Company projects or related projects of other companies, including difficulties or delays in obtaining necessary governmental approvals, permits or orders or in obtaining the cooperation of interconnecting facility operators; 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 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; the creditworthiness or performance of the Company's key suppliers, customers and counterparties; economic disruptions or uninsured losses resulting from major accidents, fires, severe weather, natural disasters, terrorist activities, acts of war, cyber attacks or pest infestation; changes in price differential between similar quantities of natural gas at different geographic locations, and the effect of such changes on the demand for pipeline transportation capacity to or from such locations; other changes in price differentials between similar quantities of oil or natural gas having different quality, heating value, geographic location or delivery date; significant differences between the Company's projected and actual capital expenditures and operating expenses; 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; the cost and effects of legal and administrative claims against the Company or activist shareholder campaigns to effect changes at the Company; increasing health care costs and the resulting effect on health insurance premiums and on the obligation to provide other post-retirement benefits; 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
RECONCILIATION OF CURRENT AND PRIOR YEAR GAAP EARNINGS
QUARTER ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2012
 
Exploration &Pipeline &EnergyCorporate /
(Thousands of Dollars)Production   Storage   Utility   Marketing   All Other   Consolidated**
 
First quarter 2012 GAAP earnings$30,315$9,959$19,353$429$643$60,699
 
Drivers of operating results
Higher (lower) crude oil prices2,4622,462
Higher (lower) natural gas prices(9,026)(9,026)
Higher (lower) natural gas production19,59719,597
Higher (lower) crude oil production(276)(276)
Lower (higher) lease operating expenses(4,609)(4,609)
Lower (higher) depreciation / depletion(6,785)1,019(628)(6,394)
 
Higher (lower) transportation and storage revenues5,5265,526
Higher (lower) efficiency gas revenues380380
Higher (lower) gathering and processing revenues1,3751,375
Lower (higher) operating expenses(2,950)1,314(1,636)
 
Colder weather1,3711,371
 
Higher AFUDC *320320
(Higher) lower interest expense(2,205)(2,205)
 
Lower (higher) income tax expense/effective tax rate535535
 
All other / rounding 157     (271)    305    66    (432)    (175)
 
First quarter 2013 GAAP earnings$26,680    $16,933    $22,878   $495   $958    $67,944 
 
 
* AFUDC = Allowance for Funds Used During Construction
** Amounts do not reflect intercompany eliminations
 
                  
NATIONAL FUEL GAS COMPANY
RECONCILIATION OF CURRENT AND PRIOR YEAR GAAP EARNINGS PER SHARE
QUARTER ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2012
 
Exploration &Pipeline &EnergyCorporate /
Production   Storage   Utility   Marketing   All Other   Consolidated**
 
First quarter 2012 GAAP earnings$0.36$0.12$0.23$0.01$0.01$0.73
 
Drivers of operating results
Higher (lower) crude oil prices0.030.03
Higher (lower) natural gas prices(0.11)(0.11)
Higher (lower) natural gas production0.230.23
Higher (lower) crude oil production--
Lower (higher) lease operating expenses(0.05)(0.05)
Lower (higher) depreciation / depletion(0.08)0.01(0.01)(0.08)
 
Higher (lower) transportation and storage revenues0.07
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