MDU Resources Group reported 2Q2008 earnings of $55.1 million (30 cents/share), down 52% from $115.3 million (63 cents) in 2Q2008, due primarily to substantially lower natural gas and oil prices.

Average realized natural gas prices were 43% less than in the same period a year ago, the Bismarck, ND-based company said Monday.

Lower gas and oil prices also prompted the company to reduce its 2009 capital expenditures to $415 million from a previously announced $602 million.

Despite the lower quarterly earnings, MDU continues to experience strong cash flow and a healthy balance sheet, said CEO Terry D. Hildestad, who credited the company’s diversified strategy and aggressive cost management.

“We will continue to keep a sharp focus on managing costs, which includes restricting our capital spending to a level that can be substantially funded internally with cash generated by operations,” Hildestad said. “At the same time, we will continue to look for opportunities that could provide future growth when the economy rebounds.”

MDU reaffirmed its 2009 earnings guidance of $1.05-1.30/share excluding a first quarter noncash charge of $2.09/share.

Operating revenues from natural gas declined to $69.2 million in 2Q2009 compared with $140.5 million in 2Q2008, reflecting a reduction in drilling activity and gas prices “that have declined significantly from last year’s record highs,” Hildestad said.

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