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Sempra Still Focusing on LNG, to Sell Renewables, Midstream Businesses

Under pressure from major shareholders, Sempra Energy plans to sell its U.S. renewable energy, midstream businesses and other assets not related to liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects in the United States and Mexico.

CEO Jeff Martin unveiled a five-year strategy last Thursday that de-emphasizes holdings in South America and ventures not connected to the LNG and Mexico businesses.

After 15 months of study, Sempra plans to concentrate its businesses in North America, and increasingly in the United States, Martin said during an annual analyst day in New York City.

"We announced a basket of divestitures...involving businesses we care a lot about, but ones that others may assign higher values to and don't meet our internal hurdle rates," Martin said.

Martin emphasized that LNG is core to Sempra's strategy, and the company is expecting 75% growth in the global markets by 2035.

The strategy may not satisfy Elliott Associates LP, Elliott international LP and Bluescape Resources Co., which together hold an estimated 4.9.% of shares, and which want all LNG assets and South American utilities divested.

The shareholders’ proposal was not mentioned, but executives appeared to have it in mind in discussing three LNG projects. The Cameron, LA, export project now is in the final phases of construction, with the fourth and fifth trains planned longer term. There also are LNG export proposals for Port Arthur, TX, near Houston, and for Energia Costa Azul in Norte California, Mexico.

Sempra COO Joseph Householder said LNG demand is trending higher globally, and Sempra is expecting to line up more commitments for supplies through at least 2035. "We're well positioned to take advantage of this market with each of our projects," he said.

For the LNG projects, Sempra is estimating annual profits of $365-425 million over the next 20 years.

Martin tied the latest strategy and vision, which is focused on 2022, back to a board’s strategic planning process four years ago, when Sempra decided to exit the power generation sector. "We're actively looking to get out of that business entirely and reduce our procurement portfolio," Martin said.

According to Martin, Sempra, which turned 20 last Thursday, has grown from $10 billion in assets to more than $60 billion today. That does not include the upcoming sale of renewables and other assets. "This history causes us to have confidence in our future," he said.

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