San Diego-based Sempra Energy’s Mexico business unit plans to hold an initial public offering (IPO) of up to 20% of stock as part of a long-range plan to increase natural gas investments on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sempra on Tuesday reported that earnings in 4Q2012 were flat year/year at $293 million ($1.18/share) versus $285 million ($1.18). For 2012 profits were $859 million ($3.48 cents/share), compared with $1.3 billion ($5.51) in 2011. Sempra for 2012 had two big one-time charges, one for its 25% interest in the Rockies Express Pipeline, as well as losses at the Cameron, LA, liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, which is being turned from an import facility into an export facility. Excluding one-time items, earnings year/year were flat at about $1 billion.

CEO Debra Reed said she couldn’t offer many details per Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules, but she reiterated an announcement earlier in the week that Sempra plans a private offering of stock to launch an IPO for a 15-20% interest in Sempra Mexico, which would include $1 billion in natural gas pipeline projects the company has on the shelf (see Daily GPI, Oct. 24, 2012).

“The offering is expected to close by April this year, and it is consistent with our strategy of having some local ownership of our international businesses,” said Reed, noting something similar has already been done regarding Sempra’s assets in Peru.

While noting that the majority of Sempra’s multi-billion capital budget this year and in subsequent years will be focused on Southern California Gas Co. utility and Mexico pipeline projects, executives also outlined plans for an expanded LNG export facility at Cameron costing up to $6.5 billion and developing a total infrastructure at Cameron in the $9 billion to $10 billion range, including the existing facilities.

Reed reiterated her earlier predictions that Sempra will have all needed approvals by the end of the year, allowing startup of construction next year and exports beginning in the second half of 2017. The facility is slated to have three trains that would be able to export up to 13.5 million metric tons/year. Reed said Sempra now is forecasting higher annual earnings from the proposed export facility ranging from $300-$350 million.

President Mark Snell called LNG the “growth engine” for natural gas in the United States, including in the domestic electric generation sector.

“We are confident that we will be among the first [applicants] to obtain a DOE [U.S. Department of Energy] export permits [for nonfree trade agreement, FTA, nations],” Reed said. At the request of its many customer-partners, the executives said the Cameron plans now call for an added 1.5 million metric tons/year capacity.

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