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Spectra Beats Earnings Expectations; Pipe Expansion Already Full

Spectra Energy Corp. third quarter adjusted net income was $283 million (42 cents/share), up sharply from $179 million (27 cents/share) during the prior year quarter. Adjusted earnings per share were 7 cents above analyst expectations.

"Spectra Energy's results were very much in line with our expectations for the quarter and the year," CEO Greg Ebel said. "With the continued successful execution of our capital expansion plans, the strong performance of our newly acquired oil and natural gas liquids pipeline businesses, and the early completion of our drop down of assets into our MLP [master limited partnership], Spectra Energy Partners, we are delivering impressive financial results and returns for our shareholders."

Last week the company ramped up the New Jersey-New York expansion on its Texas Eastern Transmission Co. and Algonquin Gas Transmission systems (see Shale Daily, Nov. 1). It did not provide volumes flowing on the system at the time of the announcement, but Ebel was asked by an analyst about them on Monday.

"...[W]ith one day in operation, I can tell you the pipe's full," Ebel said in response to an analyst's question. "...[T]hat is a desperately needed chunk of pipe, and I think we are around 700 million cubic feet or 800 million cubic feet a day, in terms of nominations. And frankly, I'm sure we all wish we'd built even a bigger pipe, given the importance of that."

Spectra management has said it would have $25 billion in growth projects by the end of the decade. On Monday, Ebel said the company has secured more than half of that.

"And then in June, we announced the dropdown of all the remaining U.S. transmission and storage assets, as well as the remaining liquid assets to [Spectra Energy Partners]," he told analysts during a conference call. "We're very pleased to have closed sooner than expected on that transaction, creating a $20 billion enterprise and one of largest fee-based MLPs in North America."

Spectra's $500 million TEAM 2014 Project is moving forward and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected by year-end, the company said. Additionally, the $150 million Gulf Market Expansion Project will provide additional natural gas to support the growing manufacturing sector and liquefied natural gas export industry along the Texas and Louisiana coast. The company has secured 650 MMcf/d of long-term contracts for shipments on this expansion of the Texas Eastern pipeline system.

The company's U.S. transmission business reported earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of $250 million, compared with $238 million in third quarter 2012. Results reflect increased earnings from expansions on Texas Eastern, partially offset by lower storage revenues.

The distribution business reported EBIT of $34 million, compared with $55 million a year ago. The decrease was due to an expected reduction in transportation revenue as a result of a 2012 regulatory decision, and expected lower storage revenues, Spectra said.

Western Canada transmission and processing reported EBIT of $90 million compared with $83 million a year ago. The segment experienced higher earnings at the Empress natural gas liquids business, attributable mainly to higher propane prices and lower production costs compared to third quarter 2012.

Field services reported third quarter EBIT of $137 million, compared with $62 million in third quarter 2012 due primarily to higher volumes from unit DCP Midstream's new processing plants going into service as well as higher commodity prices and lower operating costs.

The liquids business consists of the Express-Platte Pipeline System, which was acquired in March, along with equity investments in Sand Hills Pipeline and Southern Hills Pipeline. Liquids reported third quarter EBIT of $33 million, consisting primarily of Express-Platte operating results.

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