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Sempra Eyes Faster Growth, More Diversity by 2012
Despite roiling global financial markets, federal regulatory delays in closing its joint venture with the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and dissatisfaction with the company’s current stock price, San Diego-based Sempra Energy expects to have faster earnings growth and more diversity in its operations over the next five years, CEO Donald Felsinger told the company’s annual analyst meeting in New York City Thursday.
“The next five years look a lot different than the last five years, and I am as confident as I have ever been that we will meet our earnings targets through 2012,” Felsinger said. Prior to its analysts’ meeting on Wall Street, Sempra announced Thursday that it should average 11% earnings growth annually over the next five years, targeting earnings-per-share guidance for next year in the $4.35-4.60 range and for 2012 in the $5.50-5.80 range.
The RBS commodity trading joint venture, which should effectively buffer Sempra from the current global credit market crunch, still needs a final approval from the Federal Reserve, which has been diverted by the global financial instability causing it to lag on the RBS timetable, but Felsinger again predicted the Fed would act soon. “It is a matter of hours, if not days, and it is definitely not a matter of weeks or months before we expect the Fed to act,” he said.
While analysts probed senior Sempra officials for more details on various merchant businesses, such as power generation and importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the company’s two new receiving terminals — North Baja California’s Costa Azul and Cameron on the Louisiana Gulf — Felsinger painted a picture of growing earnings from a number of natural gas infrastructure projects, which include pipelines and storage projects in addition to LNG, and a growing presence in the renewable energy sector in the Southwest and northwestern Mexico.
While recording record earnings of a little more than $1.1 billion last year, Felsinger said Sempra took a “giant step forward on natural gas infrastructure” and many of those projects will be commercialized this year. By 2012, he expects earnings to be in the range of $1.3-1.5 billion.
Felsinger and the rest of the Sempra senior executives expressed confidence that the current delays and uncertainty related to how much LNG growth there is going to be in the United States should not adversely affect their projects. There may be a lot of unused capacity at first at Costa Azul and Cameron, but from what is firmly committed — not counting supplies that can be diverted — Sempra will stay profitable on its LNG operations, the executives said.
In fact, over the next 20 years, just with the four long-term contracts it now has in place for LNG supplies, Sempra is looking toward returns on its investment in the 8-8.5 % range, said Felsinger, noting that even when LNG cargoes may be diverted to higher priced markets, Sempra is paid its margin.
“Our terminals make money whether gas flows or not,” he said.
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