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Energy Transfer CFO Switch Spooks Investors

Energy Transfer Equity LP (ETE) on Monday sought to quell investor fears over a CFO swap announced last Friday that prompted analysts to question the feasibility of its planned merger with The Williams Companies (WMB).

On Friday, Energy Transfer said in a regulatory filing that Thomas E. Long would replace Jamie Welch as group CFO for the company and related entities. Shares/units of ETE and Energy Transfer Partners, along with those of Williams Companies and Williams Partners LP, all tanked in Monday morning trading.

On Monday in a "follow up" filing at the Securities and Exchange Commission, ETE said it had "...initiated discussions with Mr. Welch towards a potential consulting arrangement related primarily to the continued development of the partnership's LNG [liquefied natural gas] export project as well as other financing matters although, at this time, no agreements have been reached.

"In addition, in response to inquiries from various parties, the partnership affirms that the replacement of Mr. Welch as chief financial officer of the partnership was not based on any disagreement with respect to any accounting or financial matter involving the partnership or any of its affiliates."

In a note published Friday, analysts at Jefferies said the filing announcing the CFO swap was "sparse on detail" and "leaves unclear what Mr. Welch's new role (if any) will be within ETE and, given ongoing 2016 financing needs and the pending merger with WMB, we expect a negative market reaction Monday for all family entities."

At midday Monday, ETE was off more than 34%. WMB was down more than 30%. Last September, the companies announced a $37.7 billion combination that they said would make a "top five" global energy company (see Daily GPISept. 28, 2015).

Neither ETE nor Williams would comment.

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