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PVR Partners, L.P. (NYSE:PVR)

Q1 2013 Earnings Call

April 25, 2013 11:00 am ET

Executives

William H. Shea - Chief Executive Officer of Penn Virginia Resource GP LLC, President of Penn Virginia Resource GP LLC and Director of Penn Virginia Resource GP LLC

Bruce D. Davis - Executive Vice President of Penn Virginia Resource GP LLC, General Counsel of Penn Virginia Resource GP LLC and Secretary of Penn Virginia Resource GP LLC

Robert B. Wallace - Chief Financial Officer of Penn Virginia Resource GP LLC and Executive Vice President of Penn Virginia Resource GP LLC

Mark D. Casaday - Executive Vice President of Penn Virginia Resource Gp Llc and Chief Operating Officer—Midstream of Penn Virginia Resource Gp Llc

Keith D. Horton - Co-President of Coal - Penn Virginia Resource GP LLC and Chief Operating Officer of Coal - Penn Virginia Resource GP LLC

Analysts

James Spicer - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Gabriel P. Moreen - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Michael J. Blum - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

James Jampel

Heejung Ryoo - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Elvira Scotto - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Operator

Good morning, and welcome to the PVR Partners First Quarter Financial Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Please note, this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Bill Shea. Please go ahead, sir.

William H. Shea

Thanks very much, Denise. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining PVR Partners first quarter 2013 financial results call. With me today we have Rob Wallace, CFO; Bruce Davis, EVP and General Counsel; Mark Casaday, EVP and Chief Operating Officer of our Midstream Group; Keith Horton, EVP and Chief Operating Officer of our Coal Segment; and Steve Milbourne, Head of our Investor Relations effort. Before we get started, Bruce, would you provide the forward-looking statement warning?

Bruce D. Davis

Thanks, Bill. In the course of our remarks and the subsequent Q&A session, we may be making some forward-looking statements. For purposes of facilitating a good discussion, I'll refer you to the forward-looking statements as referenced in this morning's press release, noting that our business is subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties. For a fuller discussion of these and other risks that could cause our results to change, please see PVR's Form 10-K most recently filed with the SEC.

William H. Shea

Thanks, Bruce. I hope you've all had an opportunity to review the press release that was issued this morning. We are very pleased with the results for the first quarter.

Combined adjusted EBITDA in our East and Midcon businesses increased 13% over the fourth quarter of 2012, and 140% over the first quarter of 2012. PVR's distributable cash flow increased 23% over the fourth quarter of 2012, and 39% over the first quarter of 2012. But although the first quarter results were good, we've determined to maintain the quarterly distribution at $0.55 per common unit or $2.20 on an annualized basis.

Now let me explain the reasoning behind that. First and foremost, we are not changing our guidance for 2013. We are as positive and excited about our internal growth prospects over the next several years, as we have been in the past. Our transformation from a coal royalty business to a midstream natural gas business has provided, and will continue to provide, strong growth opportunities for PVR and its unitholders.

When we completed our acquisition last May of Chief Gathering LLC, we indicated that we expected the cash flows from the acquisition to grow as we completed the buildout of the systems, completed well connections with contracted producers, and executed contracts with additional producers for gathering and transportation services on our systems. All of that has happened not quite as quickly as we expected.

We've completed construction of the 750 million cubic feet a day Wyoming trunkline, and we did that in October 2012. And we're currently flowing 310 million cubic feet a day on that line, with additional volumes expected upon the completion of the trunkline's southern receipt point at Chevre Cool in June or July of this year. We've also connected 30 wells through March with an additional 60 to 70 wells expected to be connected by year-end, and we've executed firm transportation agreements, new firm transportation agreements with affiliates of Carrizo Oil & Gas and Reliance Group with volumes in the Wyoming and Susquehanna counties expected to start flowing in July 2013.

So our vision for the Chief assets is being realized, although not as quickly as originally expected. In anticipation of the increased cash flows from the Chief acquisition, we have increased the distribution over the past 3 quarters. However, as you know, our coverage ratios have not been as strong as we would have liked, as the timing of the Chief cash flows has lagged our original expectations. Therefore, as we balanced raising the distribution versus strengthening the coverage ratio, we've decided to maintain the distribution for this quarter at $0.55 per unit and strengthen the coverage ratio. Our commitment to long-term growth of cash distribution to our unitholders has not changed, and it's our intention to resume the distribution growth as cash flows from the Chief assets in our Lycoming system increase over time. And while we can't commit to a date that the distribution growth will resume, our board reviews it regularly, and we don't expect this to be a lengthy pause.

Turning now to the first quarter results. Total adjusted EBITDA was $76 million versus $53 million in the first quarter of 2012, and $67.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, a 43% increase and 12% increase, respectively. Bcf was $49.9 million versus $35.8 million in the first quarter versus $40.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, a 39% increase and 23% increase, respectively.

Total average daily throughput in both of our Midstream segments for the quarter was 1.6 Bcf a day versus 744 million cubic feet a day in the first quarter of 2012, and 1.4 Bcf a day in the fourth quarter of 2012. More specifically, the Eastern Midstream segment had adjusted EBITDA of $37.7 million as compared to $10 million last year, and $33.1 million last quarter, primarily due to the continuing development of internal growth projects and the acquisition of the Chief Gathering assets.

For the quarter, average throughput volumes in the East were 1.2 Bcf a day, as compared to 302 million cubic feet a day last year, and 967 million cubic feet per day last quarter. The volume growth is driven both by the expansion of business on our PVR legacy systems, as well again as the acquisition and expansion of the Chief Gathering systems.

In our Midcon Midstream segment, adjusted EBITDA was $15.7 million as compared to $12.3 million last year, and $14.2 million last quarter. Quarterly average throughput in the Midstream Midcon was 391 million cubic feet a day, as compared to 442 million cubic feet a day last year and 421 million cubic feet a day last quarter. Volumes in the first quarter of 2012 included approximately 57 million cubic feet a day attributable to the Crossroads Systems that was sold on July 3, 2012. Overall, the Midcon volumes are consistent with our expectations for the quarter.

In our coal and natural resources segment, adjusted EBITDA was $22.7 million as compared to $30.7 million last year, and $20.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2012. The year-over-year decline is primarily due, as you all know, to decreased coal production and pricing. Coal royalty tons were 6.4 million tons this quarter as compared to 8.1 million tons last year and 6.6 million tons in the fourth quarter of 2012. These volumes were as expected. The coal segment, which is still challenged, as everyone recognizes, performed as anticipated in the first quarter. You'll remember from the year-end call that we anticipate coal royalty volumes to be essentially flat with the fourth quarter of 2012. And that's what we experienced. The near-term outlook for the coal segment is for flat production and little price improvement overall. However, for now, the segment seems to have stabilized. Regarding capital investment during the quarter, we invested $90.1 million in the Midstream segment, $73 million which is in the East, and we've had no appreciable capital expenditures in the coal segment.

As of March 31, we had $292 million of borrowing capacity under our $1 billion revolver. We continue to build out our systems in the east to satisfy producer demands for connectivity to our systems. Drilling activity remains strong and will provide the growth needed to achieve our 2013 guidance.

Drilling activity also remains strong in our Midstream Midcon operations, where we see ample opportunities and are prioritized on our well connect CapEx to assure adequate investment returns. Commodity pricing has been positive versus expectations, although ethane pricing has disconnected from natural gas prices and has trended lower. As a result, we are continuing in ethane reduction modes and expect to continue in this mode for the year. All in all, we're encouraged by our performance in the first quarter and for the outlook for the year. At this time, I'm going to turn it back to you, Denise, for the beginning of Q&A.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question is from James Spicer from Wells Fargo.

James Spicer - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

I got a couple of questions for you guys. Firstly, can you just review where you are on the CapEx budget? How much you have remaining for the rest of the year? And talk about some of the potential incremental spending on some of the newer initiatives you've mentioned, including in the Utica and the Cline?

William H. Shea

James, this is Bill. As we said, we've spent $90 million in the first quarter on our expansion plans. Our guidance was the $350 million to $400 million, so we have -- no, $260 million or so remaining to be spent. The initiatives that we have in the Cline and in the Utica are not going to be taking up much capital in 2013, but really in the development phase of those. So I would expect the capitals expended there would be relatively small for the rest of the year.

James Spicer - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

And what about the cost in total of those projects?

William H. Shea

Well, I don't think they've been fully formulated at this point. So I mean, I think the project in the Utica, if fully fleshed out, could be a couple hundred million dollars, but that's certainly not what it's looking like right now. But it certainly could grow to that size depending on the number of producers and the length of the system that we would contemplate building. I suppose you have the maybe not quite so much of a CapEx commitment in the Cline at this point. We're working with a couple of producers who have got relatively small development programs on the way. We also, of course, have a system out in the Cline formation now, which is able to take production that's currently being drilled. So again, I don't think the capital there would be all that much certainly in 2013.

James Spicer - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Okay, that's helpful. So I'm just wondering if you could talk about what if any additional activity or pickup in activity you're seeing across your acreage in the Marcellus as a result of the uptick in gas prices that we've seen here?

William H. Shea

I'm not sure that we've seen any substantial uptick in the activity. We still have some producers that say that they can drill it $2, $2.50, and then we have others that say that they need $4 to increase their activity. I'm not sure that the pricing increases have been sustained for long enough periods to really see a lot of increased activity. But certainly, no one's, as far as I can see, no one is reducing their activity as a result of $4 gas.

James Spicer - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Okay, okay. And then just a couple of housekeeping ones quickly here. I think in the last quarter, you talked about potentially amending your leverage covenant to give you a little bit more headroom there. Can you just talk about what you guys ended up doing there and where you are at the end of the quarter?

William H. Shea

I'll let Rob respond to that, but we were successful in amending the revolver.

Robert B. Wallace

Thanks, Bill. The leverage ratio covenant on our $1 billion revolver was amended during the quarter, and essentially called for us getting a debt to EBITDA to 5.75, including the material project adjustment for EBITDA for the Q1 and Q2 of this year. And then it goes down to 5.5x for Q3 and Q4, and then back to the original 5.25 for the first quarter of 2014 and thereafter. In our view, the amendment provides us with more flexibility to manage our growth through the year, and just as an added piece our -- and the actual ratio from March was 5.3x.

James Spicer - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Okay, great. And then lastly, you do have quite a bit of outstanding [indiscernible] on the revolver right now. Do you have any plans to term those out either in the high-yield market or to access the equity market to reduce that?

William H. Shea

No. James, our strategy, and I think probably similar to a lot of others out there, is to go ahead and use our revolver for our expansion projects. And then when conditions are favorable, we would go ahead and reload that revolver, utilizing both the debt and the equity markets. So that's about all I can say right now, but that's always been our plan.

Operator

The next question is from Adam Leight from RBC Capital Markets.

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

First question on the Eastern Midstream, can you give us some idea of how much of a volume increase was due to wells that have been waiting on connection versus any new completions, and how much of the backlog of uncompleted wells there might still be?

William H. Shea

Well, I can answer the last part of it. At the end of the quarter, we had 17 wells waiting on connection. So I'm not sure that we'd know the answer to the first question, which would be the breakout of the Waffle [ph] wells versus existing well production. I don't think we've calculated that.

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Do you have a sense of the source of the growth than by producer? Is anybody more outsized than anybody else?

William H. Shea

I'll tell you, our top 5 producers in the Eastern Midstream are, and by alphabetical, are Anadarko, Chesapeake, Chief, Citrus, EXCO and Range. I don't think any one of them particularly increased their production versus the others. I think it's just overall growth in the production in the area. I will say, we did turn in the line 6 EXCO wells in the first quarter, which is a positive development for us.

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Indeed. Do you have any view or visibility improvement for later in the year in terms of an increased drilling activity? You already said that nothing to date, but...

William H. Shea

I think as of the end of the quarter, there were 6 drilling rigs working in our area of dedications, and there was another maybe 20 or so rigs working in the counties in which we operate. Some of those drilling -- those wells that are being drilled would be wells that would come online in our systems, but they will come in probably behind the central delivery point. So it's a little tough to estimate what the volume impact would be. But there's still a fair amount of drilling with 6 rigs in our area and another 20 or so in the surrounding area.

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Okay. And how much of your -- what's the capacity utilization on your firm transport, and how much of your revenue comes from [indiscernible] -- came from transport in the quarter?

William H. Shea

Well, on the Lycoming trunkline, we currently have 375 million cubic feet a day of firm commitment ramping up to 460 million by midyear third quarter in that timeframe. I'm not sure what the actual volume has been versus that firm commitment. And on the Wyoming trunkline, we currently are at 255 million cubic feet a day of firm transport ramping up to 385 million when the Chevre Cool compressor station and connection occurs, and also the new contract with Carrizo.

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

That was my next question. What's the volume on the Carrizo contract?

William H. Shea

I'm not sure that we've disclosed that, but it's a significant contract and should add a fair amount of volume to our source system. Do we have that number, Mark?

Mark D. Casaday

Yes.

William H. Shea

We don't want to give that information?

Mark D. Casaday

No.

William H. Shea

Apparently, our agreement won't allow that to happen with Carrizo.

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Okeydoke. Just going to shift to Midcon for a second. The -- can you give us a sense of how much of the decline in volumes was weather versus well declines and ethane rejection?

William H. Shea

We just get that again, Adam. We're having a little trouble hearing you.

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Sorry. How much of the Midcon volume decline was weather versus well declines and ethane rejection? And what can we expect to see with the additional well connects that you just mentioned in the first quarter?

William H. Shea

I think, and everybody jump in here when they want, but I think what we've said in the Midcon is that our volumes are expected to be about what they were in the first quarter. So well-connects will be replacing declining well production over the course of the year. We did have weather-related issues in the first quarter for sure. There's -- I'm guessing there was probably 7 to 10 days of weather-impacted production, which you won't see hopefully in the second, third or maybe at least the beginning of the fourth quarter until the weather gets really cold, so -- but we had about, I would say, 7 days of production curtailments in the first quarter. Mark, is that about right?

Mark D. Casaday

That's right.

Robert B. Wallace

And Adam, I think just -- and we added a new disclosure in the back of the press release on operating statistics for the Midcon and Midstream area. And we've broken out the volumes by system and you can kind of see where the changes were. And you have to take into account, of course, the sale of Crossroads, which occurred last July.

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Okay. And then one last question, the operating expenses in Midcon were down, and is that a sustainable improvement in margins?

William H. Shea

Well, the OpEx was down because we've rationalized the organization a little bit and taken some other OpEx costs out. We are anticipating -- we're hopeful that the liquids pricing and natural gas pricing will stay at the levels that they are now. You recall, I think with our guidance, we were using the strip at the -- in January, I think, is the basis for our guidance. So we're a little bit ahead of that right now. We would hope it would stay that way. And then also, of course, for the sale of Crossroads, take some of the OpEx out of the equation.

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Okay. And I have one more question. On coal, have you gone through your recontracting process, yet?

William H. Shea

Well, the contracting for 2013 is probably about finished that we think about 90% or so of our production is contracted for 2013. The contracted production for 2014 is significantly lighter. I'm not sure it's all that much lighter than what you would expect at this time of year. But Keith, what are we looking at, 1/3 to 1/2 of the volumes have been contracted so far?

Keith D. Horton

That's correct, Bill.

William H. Shea

For 2014?

Keith D. Horton

Yes. Some are building on metallurgical sales as it goes quarter-to-quarter.

K. Adam Leight - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Okay. And I'm assuming your comments on pricing reflects in new contracts?

William H. Shea

Yes.

Operator

Our next question is from Gabe Moreen from Merrill Lynch.

Gabriel P. Moreen - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

On the new projects you're looking out in the Cline and the Utica, are those with existing producer customers or new customers or kind of combination thereof?

William H. Shea

It's a combination. So there is at least one new producer that we'd be working with, and there are a couple of existing ones that -- especially in the Cline that we've been working with.

Gabriel P. Moreen - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Got it, but the Utica one sounds like it might be a new customer altogether?

William H. Shea

Yes.

Gabriel P. Moreen - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Okay, great. And then just on those 2 projects, can you talk about, particularly in the Utica, you're strictly gathering. You're doing some processing as well, then on maybe on both projects, whether you're looking at strictly fee-based margin, are you trying -- you're going to take out some [indiscernible] sensitivity?

William H. Shea

Well, I can answer the first question. But they, -- the contracts that we anticipate signing, the development that we anticipate doing would be fee-based revenue. And Mark can talk a little bit more about the specific projects, but we're concentrating more in the dry gas area and would not anticipate processing ourselves.

Mark D. Casaday

That's right. Gabe, it's also set up more on a trunkline and gathering model similar to our Lycoming model.

Operator

Our next question is from Michael Blum from Wells Fargo.

Michael J. Blum - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Just I think most of my question were covered, but do you -- can you provide what your equity NGL volumes were in the Midcontinent for the first quarter?

William H. Shea

Go ahead, Rob. I don't think we've provided that before.

Robert B. Wallace

Bill, we haven't. And Michael, we're working on getting numbers that can be auditable to provide to the street, but we just haven't gotten there, yet. So that's about all about I can say about that right now.

Operator

Your next question is from James Jampel from HITE.

James Jampel

Looking at the coal numbers, the San Juan Basin is now like 1/3 of the coal. So what are the dynamics there? And how do you think that's going to hold up? That was actually up year-over-year.

William H. Shea

Keith, do you want to talk about San Juan Basin? But that is a contract that is coming to an end here, the...

Mark D. Casaday

First quarter of next year.

William H. Shea

First quarter of 2014, but...

Keith D. Horton

The actual production out of the San Juan Basin was up due to some lower ratio reserves that were mined during the year. However, as the mine progresses, those ratios increased, and you'll see a subsequent slower or lower rate of production that comes out of the San Juan.

James Jampel

And then your interest in the San Juan will end when?

Keith D. Horton

About the end of the first quarter of 2014.

James Jampel

I see. And as -- so then can we expect sort of another 1/3 step down in coal EBITDA, your hands?

Robert B. Wallace

James, it's Rob Wallace. The -- we'll lose that dirt from San Juan Basin, but we will be adding from other projects that have been in development over the last 2 years or so. You'll remember we did an acquisition about 2 years ago that was designed, and its cash flows were projected to help replace part of the hole created by the ending of the San Juan contract, and the loss of that is anticipated. And I will also add that the San Juan Basin contract was a fixed fee per ton contract that's kind of a low rate as compared to the percentage contracts we have in other areas.

James Jampel

So it's less than 1/3 of the profitability?

Robert B. Wallace

Yes, it's less as, on a percentage basis, of the revenue than it is of production.

James Jampel

I see. And any further thoughts on the strategic set of coal within PVR Partners?

William H. Shea

Well, we continue to look at all alternatives, of course. And we hate to be maybe selling you what is considered to be the bottom, we see that the market seems to have stabilized for 2013. But we continue to look at all alternatives for coal.

Operator

Our next question is from Helen Ryoo from Barclays.

Heejung Ryoo - Barclays Capital, Research Division

I just had a question regarding the new operating data that you've disclosed. I appreciate the additional detail there, but you disclosed your gathering fee of $0.42, trunkline fee of $0.36, is gathering fee a good run rate to use going forward? And also on the trunkline fee, should that come down over time as volumes show up in that system? And if that's the case, where should it ultimately settle? And when would the timing would be?

William H. Shea

Well, to get the trunkline's fee is going to go down over time. You can expect as volumes increase, that will go down because the firm transportation charges are in there. So there are shippers who are paying for capacity that they are currently not using. And so as volumes increase, the trunkline fee will go down. As far as the gathering fee, Mark, would you like to comment on that?

Mark D. Casaday

No. I mean, over time, I think that's a stabilized, annualized fee, right?

William H. Shea

So there's no involved on the gathering side. So that is probably what you see for the first quarter is close to a run rate.

Heejung Ryoo - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Okay, okay. And then just on the trunkline fee, I guess, ultimately, at what level, for modeling purposes, should it go down to high 20s? And also in terms of timing, I mean, when do you expect the full volume ramp up there to materialize?

William H. Shea

I think, for modeling purposes, based on the run rate, assuming that all of the FT capacity is being paid for and used, it's probably looking for straight transportation fees on the trunkline somewhere around $0.18. And that's excluding all the other fees for compression and dehy that may be involved there.

Heejung Ryoo - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Right, okay. And could you just remind me what's the firm transportation capacity that's been contracted out on trunkline?

William H. Shea

Yes, just hold on half a second.

Heejung Ryoo - Barclays Capital, Research Division

All right.

Mark D. Casaday

On the Lycoming trunkline, it's currently at 375 million cubic feet a day ramping up to 460. And on the Wyoming trunkline, it's 255 million ramping up to 385 million later in the year.

Heejung Ryoo - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Okay. So you've said all of that shows up, it's just I should just add the 2 -- 460 million, 385 million. And that's when you see that level of volume, then you will probably realize about $0.18 per M?

William H. Shea

Yes.

Heejung Ryoo - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Okay, great, great. And then just my last question, I know you left guidance unchanged. I guess you've guided towards Eastern Midstream exit volume being 1,700 to 1,800 at the end of the year. Just to get a sense, do you have a sense what the utilization would be on your system at the end of the year? I'm just trying to get a sense of maybe the volume upside without adding additional CapEx at that point?

Mark D. Casaday

If at end of the year our total commitments on the Lycoming line are 460 million, our capacity at 100% utilization is 750 million a day. And on the Wyoming trunkline, if our utilization is 385 million at the end of the year, our capacity is again, 750 million a day.

William H. Shea

And the additional volumes to get to the year-end run rate that we're talking about come as result of connections that go into Tennessee and a separate connection in the transco for another producer.

Heejung Ryoo - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Okay. What about on the gathering side, what will be your utilization at the end of the year?

William H. Shea

I think the answer is the same, Mark, on the gathering side, except for the volumes that go to Tennessee, in Bradford County and up in Wyoming County area.

Operator

Our next question comes from Elvira Scotto from RBC Capital Markets.

Elvira Scotto - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

One quick one for me, any material change to contract mix in the Midcontinent region? I know you were looking to move more fee-based even there?

William H. Shea

No. I don't think there's been a substantial change in the contract mix. I think it's about, if I recall, it's about 15% people, 55% say POP and the remainder fee-based. But also remember that the POP contracts especially have a fee-based component to it.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We have a question from Morris Williams from Williams Company.

Morris Williams

Could there -- seems to have been some insider selling for Members of the Board. Can you just shed some perspective on that?

Bruce D. Davis

Yes. This is Bruce Davis. Several of our -- it's a couple of our board members executed 10b5-1 trading plans for state financial planning purposes, and that's really all you're seeing.

Operator

This concludes our question-and-answer session. I would now like to turn the conference back to management for closing remarks.

William H. Shea

Thanks, Denise. Thank you, everybody, for joining us, and we will talk you again at the end of the second quarter. Thanks very much. Have a great day.

Operator

The conference has now concluded. Thank you for attending today's presentation. You may now disconnect.

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