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Oneok Reaffirms '05 Earnings, Expects Drop in Gas Volumes

Oneok Inc. reaffirmed its 2005 earnings forecast last week with an expectation of higher net income. However, earnings in its production unit are expected to fall because of an anticipated drop in natural gas volumes.

Earnings guidance for 2005 is expected to be $2.22-2.28/share with projected net income at $250 million on strong natural gas and natural gas liquids prices.

The drop in production unit income relates to the "difficulty" in finding additional drilling and workover rigs along with an increased demand in drilling, completion and production services, the company said. Expected operating income for production operations now is forecast at $57 million, down from an earlier forecast of $66 million.

Oneok also decreased expected operating income from distribution operations $112 million from $125 million, "primarily resulting from increased employee pension costs, postretirement benefits and medical costs."

Within its gathering and processing operations, Oneok raised its forecast to $150 million from $117 million based on the continued effect of higher spreads on keep-whole contracts and higher prices generally for natural gas liquids and natural gas sold under percentage-of-proceeds contracts.

By quarter, Oneok expects to earn 96 cents in 1Q2005, down from $1.04 in 1Q2004; 18 cents in 2Q2005 from 17 cents in 2Q2004; 17 cents in 3Q2005 from 19 cents in 3Q2004; and 94 cents in 4Q2005 from 90 cents in 4Q2004.

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