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Targa CEO Says Company Could Be Hiring After Atlas Merger

As the oil and natural gas industry sheds workers in the headwinds of low commodities prices, the CEO of Targa Resources Partners LP (NGLS) said his company could be on the verge of doing the opposite once it completes its acquisition of two midstream units of Atlas Energy LP later this month.

Last October, NGLS and its general partner, Targa Resources Corp. (TRGP), announced a $7.7 billion deal where they would acquire two units of Atlas Energy LP: Atlas Pipeline Partners LP and Atlas Energy LP (see Daily GPI, Oct. 13, 2014). TRGP stockholders are to meet on Feb. 20 to vote on the proposed merger, which is scheduled to close on Feb. 28.

"We have two very well positioned companies, both of which are short of people," Joe Bob Perkins, who serves as CEO to both TRGP and NGLS, said during an earnings call on Friday. "The good news is we've got high talent in both companies, so priorities were mostly getting covered, but we were short of people. We may not hire as many as we thought prior to the price shock, and we now have the advantage of being able to recruit talent, and we will look at those open positions very carefully.

"But this is not a headcount reduction exercise by any stretch of the imagination. It's just the opposite. We think in this downturn we will add selected talent from those people who are laying off folks -- not necessarily their laid-off employees, but the employees who don't feel good about the ship they're on when they saw other people getting laid off."

Perkins said his thoughts on hiring covered an outlook through 2015 and into 2016. "If it goes on longer than that, everybody is reassessing," he said.

According to Perkins, when the merger with Atlas was announced last October there were between $20 billion and $30 billion worth of synergies. "The cost savings opportunities are significant," he said. "Our target philosophy on things like that would be to under promise and over deliver. The ultimate realization, just on interest rates associated with redoing the Atlas debt, gets you half to two-thirds of that. There's lot of different ways we can save the dollars."

Net income attributable to NGLS declined slightly in the fourth quarter, from $108.6 million (70 cents/unit) in 4Q2013 to $108.2 million (58 cents/unit) in 4Q2014. For the full-year 2014, net income attributable to the partnership doubled over 2013 -- from $233.5 million to $467.7 million. NGLS attributed the higher revenues in 2014 to higher natural gas liquid (NGL) volumes, higher fee-based and other revenues, and higher natural gas commodity prices. Offsetting this were lower prices for NGLs and condensate.

Meanwhile, TRGP reported net income of $25.6 million (61 cents/share) in 4Q2014, up 25.5% from 4Q2013, when it reported net income of $20.4 million (48 cents/share). For the full-year 2014, the general partner reported net income of $102.3 million ($2.43/share), a 57.1% increase over the $65.1 million in net revenue it reported for 2013.

NGLS gathered 115,900 b/d of crude oil in 4Q2014, a 78% increase over 65,100 b/d in 4Q2013. The partnership doubled its full-year gathering of crude -- from 46,900 b/d in 2013 to 93,500 b/d in 2014.

Sales of natural gas, NGLs and condensate also rose for the fourth quarter and the full year. Gas sales increased 34.9% between 4Q2013 and 4Q2014 (from 381.8 billion Btu/d to 515 billion Btu/d), and 24.6 between 2013 and 2014 (from 376.3 billion Btu/d to 469 billion Btu/d). NGL sales increased 11.8% between the two aforementioned quarters (from 75,300 b/d to 84,200 b/d), and 13% between the two years (from 71,400 b/d to 80,700 b/d). Condensate sales rose 22.2% between the quarters (from 2,700 b/d to 3,300 b/d) and 12.5% between the years (from 3,200 b/d to 3,600 b/d).

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