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Equitable Rewards Gerber With Chairman Post
Acknowledging its significant improvement in company performance and shareholder value in the past year, Equitable Resources promoted Murry S. Gerber to chairman of the board of directors last week. Gerber has served as president and CEO since joining Equitable in 1998.
Company officials cited Gerber's success in promoting his philosophy of cost-structure improvements, core business growth and development, and strategic acquisitions that helped Equitable deliver a 60% total return to its shareholders in the past year. The 1999 full-year earnings per share rose 196% over 1998, to $2.01 per share, and first quarter 2000 earnings rose 40% to $1.19 per share over the same quarter in 1999.
"Thanks to Murry's leadership and strong management team, Equitable has developed a foundation for additional growth and improvement," said James Rohr, president and CEO of PNC Bank and an Equitable board member. "Murry's appointment as chairman reflects his accomplishments over the past year."
Detailing the company's success in the past several months reads like a business school lesson in how to succeed. Just months ago, the company announced that it had completed the acquisition of the Appalachian production assets of Statoil Energy Inc. for $630 million (see NGI, Jan. 10). Statoil's production assets consisted of nearly 1.2 Tcf of proven gas reserves and 6,500 natural gas wells in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and more than doubled Equitable's natural gas reserves in the northeast U.S. energy market. The acquisition also made Equitable the leading natural gas producer in the Appalachian basin. The company announced yesterday it is moving its Alexandria, VA production headquarters, including 25 professional personnel to the corporate offices in Pittsburgh.
In March, Equitable announced it had completed combining its Gulf of Mexico assets with Westport Oil and Gas Co. (see NGI, March 20). In that transaction, Equitable received nearly $50 million in cash and a minority interest in the combined company.
Westport, based in Denver, has oil and gas production in the Rockies, mid-continent and Gulf Coast. With the combination, Equitable officials said they would be able to focus on their core business of natural gas distribution and Appalachian production.
Equitable Resource's marketing and trading arm is Equitable Energy, which serves non-regulated customers. It purchases and sells natural gas, crude oil and natural gas liquids in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky as well as the Gulf Coast. It also performs price risk management activities for its customers using energy futures, options and swaps.
Equitable officials searched for a year before naming Gerber president and CEO of the company in May 1998 (see NGI, May 11, 1998). Gerber had been Coral Energy CEO, having moved over from a position with Shell Oil.
Carolyn Davis, Houston
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