Jim Dearlove - CEO
Frank Pici - CFO
Ron Page - COO, Midstream
Keith Horton - COO, Coal and Natural Resources
Scott Hanold - RBC Capital Markets
Ron Londe - Wells Fargo
Penn Virginia Resource Partners LP (PVR) Q4 2009 Earnings Call February 11, 2010 1:00 PM ET
Good day and welcome to the Penn Virginia Resource Partners and Penn Virginia GP Holdings joint fourth quarter earnings conference call. Today's conference is being recorded. At this time I'd like to turn the conference to Mr. Jim Dearlove, Chief Executive Officer. Please go ahead Sir.
Thank you, operator and good afternoon or good morning depending I guess where we are. I am joined here today in Radnor by Frank Pici who is our CFO and in Houston by Ron Page who runs our Midstream business and in Kingsport, Tennessee by Keith Horton who runs our Coal and Natural Resources. And there are some other folks here to keep an eye on us and answer the tough questions.
But let me just follow the general format of the release and when I diverge from that I'll try to tell you. Basically we start off by reporting our distributable cash flow which is an extremely important measure for MLPs as its non-GAAP measure but again I think it's probably the key measure. For us in the fourth quarter that was $48.3 million which was up considerably over the $35 million that we reported in the fourth quarter of 2008 and that was also better than we had in the third quarter of 2009 which that number came in at $37 million.
Not going to read all of these to you but adjusted net income another non-GAAP measure but perhaps one that sorts things out because it tries to remove the non-cash changes and derivatives for value and impairments and those sorts of things, that was $32.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2009, also our record and up from the $21 million we had in the fourth quarter of 2008 and a little bit above I believe third quarter.
The other measures I might mention are coal production from our lessees at 8.5 million tons was a little bit off from where it was a year ago quarter and it was just a 100,000 tons ahead of where we were at the third quarter of 2009. Royalty revenue and again to remind you, we don't mine coal, we simply lessee it and collect royalties for the coal that we own and leased to others at any rate on a per ton basis it was 338 as compared to 372 a year ago and 337 a quarter ago. So, there is been some deterioration in the price we receive or the royalties we receive from our coal which is directly related in general the prices.
The midstream part of the business actually had a very good quarter they has continued to improve the course of the year, throughput volumes of just under 28 billion cubic feet, 300 million a day is below where we were at the end of last year at almost 30 million, 30 bcf, excuse me, for the quarter and 324 a day and we really hit a bottom in the first quarter of this year and then and so we climb our way back up. And our Midstream gross margins prior to derivatives $1.23 a 1000 cubic feet with $0.68 a year ago was $0.88 a quarter ago, you adjust those things for those gross margins for the derivatives, you can see the numbers a $1.29 in versus $0.59 versus $0.94 a quarter ago.
So, I don't like reading all those numbers but just in case you don't have the press release at least you got that covered. As we point out in the release the improved quarterly results were due to improved performance by that gathering and processing or what we call Midstream segment, our margins were up due to higher frac spreads and increased processing volumes. You might recall that during the year 2009 we built and brought on line a $40 million a day processing plan and we brought a $60 million a day processing plan both in the first half or first three quarters of 2009. So we get the full benefit of those for this quarter.
Coal and the natural resources had a decrease in quarter to quarter revenues of about $6 million and that's all price driven. Coal prices as I said were down, the spot prices were down compared to where they were a year ago. But we also although it's not a huge part of our business, we are in the timber business and we have some oil and gas royalties and the prices in both of those commodities were down significantly in the fourth quarter compared to the fourth quarter 2008.
We also report to you our full year results and I won't read all of these but the distributable cash flow for the year was a $152 million which is a highest it's ever been for the partnership versus a $130 million in 2008. There are some other results in there, they get very difficult to compare because there is various impairments or write-offs or what have you that make comparing some of these income numbers difficult to do in summary form but if you look through the tables in the release you can pull out all of those numbers.
For the full year the coal production by our lessees was 34.3 million virtually flat with a 33.7 million in 2008. Royalties $351 million versus $365 million in 2008, natural gas throughput volumes again I am just sort of reading a $121 million versus $99 million, gross margins $0.81, $0.90 adjusted for derivatives versus the $1.09 and $0.77. In a minute I will let Keith and in fact I will do that right now, let Keith and Ron tell you a little bit about each one of their segments and sort of the market conditions that they are facing. So Keith I guess the call is in here for so you go first.
Alright thank you, Jim. Basically 2009 we were able to hold our own production but the benefit of long-term contracts signed in previous years as I begin to run off you saw some revenue degradation there. In 2010 we expect a similar trend as those contracts run off. The steam coal market is very soft as we speak; most of our lessees are producing at a level that they have sold in the long-term contract with very little coal available in the spot market. And so we expect 2010 at least through the first couple of quarters, three quarters to be fairly challenging and our lessees appear to be in good shape with our coal sold under these contracts. Very little coal was re-upped during the last quarter of 2009 for delivery and in out years as the market was soft in utility stockpiles and inventories were at very high levels.
The fourth quarter, those inventories were pulled down substantially that trend has continued to the early part of the year although inventories are somewhat above recent levels. Inventories are about 62 days at steam coal plant. Also if you recall to in the early part of 2009 there was little to no coal moving into the metallurgical market, only about 10% of our production moves into that market as the prices tend to go up some more of it coal shifts to where we add maybe up toward 15% of our production goes in to the met market.
That market is strengthening now we are saying exports in to China and India and export coal prices have gained substantially. This is how our evergreen business and its negotiated year-to-year, so some of our listing is beginning to see some benefits from that but we will not see a substantial change in 2010 on the metallurgical side. With that Jim I'd turn it back to you.
Okay thank you, Keith. Well Ron how about what's going on in the Midstream business.
Thanks, Jim. The first quarter of '09 was probably our valley as far as margin goes. The fourth quarter of '09 was the bottom of the valley as far as volume goes I guess specifically November was our lowest volume month. We've seen the volume start to pickup since then and obviously our margin has been much stronger. During the year we installed 40 miles of pipe, 31000 new horsepower we added as you mentioned the 40 million a day plant at Spearman.
We purchased a 60 million a day plant also in the Panhandle and that allowed us to begin processing 50 million a day that we have been bypassing and the location of the new facilities and specially the new compression has allowed to pull our system pressure down and that of course lets volumes that are pinched all for higher pressure come back and it also encourages drilling on the system and what we have seen lately is a number of our producers specially in the Panhandle picking up their pace of drilling and they are informing us about adding rigs sort of as we come out of the first quarter and go into the second quarter.
So we're expecting to have a pretty good year in terms of volume specifically in the Panhandle. I guess we see a number of encouraging signs. Obviously, commodity prices have been trending up. Processing margins are strong. The fact that we have capacity available on our systems that were able to take advantage of an upswing in drilling without having to really spend much capital at all were all I guess significant items for us. The volumes also in East Texas are trending up. We've a number of new wells coming on over the next several months.
Our sister company PVOG is recommenced drilling I guess in East Texas and we've other parties that are bringing gas to us. Currently, we expect that we will probably have our East Texas processing plant at Cross Roads pulled by the end of the first quarter and we're actually working on the ability to move some additional gas through there. These volumes continue to build at least we expect them to continue to build throughout the year.
Our other systems are pretty much holding steady. There we're not seeing any declines. We're not seeing any huge increases, but they seem to be steady at the moment and I guess one other note is the acquisition market sure is very competitive right now with a lot of private equity management teams chasing deals and we've chosen not to spend a lot of time and effort working on acquisitions at this time. I guess that's about it.
Thanks Ron, and Frank do you want to talk a little bit about capital resources etcetera?
Sure Jim. Thanks. Good afternoon everyone. Just a couple of things, I guess on the capital resources side. We ended the year with about $620 million borrowed on our revolving credit facility and its $800 million facility. So we had about $180 million roughly of dry powder there if you will. I guess on the hedging side one way we continue to mitigate risk on the commodity price side in Ron's Midstream business is to do some hedging on our price sensitive NGL volumes and Jim mentioned the impact of that hedging on our how it improved our margins slightly in 2009.
And for 2010 we got about 58% of our price sensitive and NGL volumes hedged that we think our close to current market prices. In 2011 that number drops on just by nature of how we do our hedging program to about 37% but point being that we are fairly significantly hedged into the future on our price sensitive NGL volumes.
I guess the other point I'd make would be on the guidance side. You'll see in this press release and initial guidance table for 2010 and as you heard Jim and Keith and Ron, I'll tell you about what's been going on. We hope this reflective of what we think, 2010 looks like at this point in time you will see on the coal wealthy tonnage side there is a decrease from our 2009 volumes and I think Keith explained and Jim explained sort of why that is but we'd expect that to be sort of that reduction to be sort of front end loaded and as the stockpiles and the markets recover we'd see some improvement in volumes over the year.
So that's what reflected in the volumes assumption there. Somewhat of a lesser impact on the coal royalties per ton that's largely affected by mix issues as well and to the extent that coal royalties drop in central App, that's our highest rate area. So to the extent that that's part of the reduction that will drop that average rate per ton as well and that's what's happening in these numbers.
Just couple of other points you can see initial guidance on the other categories on a capital expenditure side coal as is normally the case other than we make an acquisition and we don't guide for acquisitions or budget for them either. We have got a fairly small amount of money set aside for capital expenditures that's sort of normal small property acquisitions both in Central App and Illinois Basin primarily in Keith's area. When you go over to the Midstream side and you look at the volumes as Ron mentioned we'd expect volumes to increase both on a system throughput and a processed basis now that we have got much enhanced processing capacity especially in our Panhandle System.
Along that line we'd expect to continue to spend some capital, you can see that the capital estimates for our midstream are significantly higher than in coal and that's also sort of by definition, two components to that your expansion capital expenditures which are projects that help us expand capacities and move into new areas and that's largely in our, since the Panhandle System is our by far our largest system, a lot of that capitals in that area, that also applies to what we call other capital expenditures or otherwise known as maintenance capital expenditures which as a reduction in the DCF calculation.
You'll see there the debt number is higher as well, much higher than 2009 and that's largely because we'd expect to see increased activity in our operating areas and tie ends of new wells and that's what the primary piece of that capital is as well. But you can see that's an increase in what we have last year on the other CapEx side. And Jim if there are any questions, we can entertain them during Q&A.
Sure, well thank you, Frank. Let me at the risk of overkill just cover one point that Frank touched down and I just want to make sure we are all clear on it and that has to do with the guidance and with respect to coal royalty tons. As it is down a little bit compared to where we finished last year and finished 2009 and 2008 and market conditions and that is the uncertainty in the markets the large amount of inventory at the various utilities that by the coal our lessees produced has caused our lessees, Keith and his team talk to them each year and we take from them where they think are going to produce and that's where we get our estimate of what will be produced.
This year what Keith and his team are being told is by our various lessees we are only going to mine what we have already sold. Usually you would expect a 15% increase over that because these people would be anticipating servicing the spot market and for purposes of forecasting for themselves and therefore for us they removed that. If the economy improves as more not the point I am trying to make, we could expect that number to go up but that right now is the best number we have got.
So on that again may be that was overkill but I wanted to try to make that point. PVG the public general partner of PVR is also covered in this press release, excuse me in this conference, we don't have a separate conference for them. We do have a separate press release because they are wholly dependent on PVR for their cash flow and as they have no operations of their own. But just to report and I guess I should have said something about the distributions at PVR as well.
But in any register report PVG again just had a pretty good year UCF was $14.8 million unchanged from last year fourth quarter. The annual distributable cash flow was up slightly because the distributions increased a little bit in early 2009 or '08 excuse me over 2008. I am sorry I am getting myself turned around here, my point is this on February 19th PVG will pay to the unit holders a record on February 2nd a quarterly distribution of $0.38 unchanged from the third quarter of 2009.
And I think I should have said the same thing and I apologize for that about, I am sorry yes thank you as previously announced on February 12th of this year that's tomorrow we will pay our unit holders a PVR unit holders of record on February 2nd a quarterly cash distribution of $0.47 annualized at a $1.88 and that's unchanged from the pervious quarter.
So I got myself a little bit confused sorry about that. Before we turn it over to questions let me just say as we all know 2009 was a challenging year for the economy and for the energy industry in general and throughout the year as was evidenced and where I think Ron and Keith said we've tried to be prudent with our capital but continue to try to position the partnership for future growth.
I think you heard them saying that there are some glimmers of hope for 2010 particularly on the midstream side if one can believe it, the drilling increase as people say they are going to do are really what they are going to do and that's the best information we have right now but the economy while improving I think its painfully slow, the increased regulation from Washington that benefits no long but increases cost and impedes progress is still there and its certainly going to have its effect in the long-term on coal I think. But regardless of that we are confident as the management team that we have got a good set of assets and the right people in place to manage them and frankly we are looking forward to some challenges in 2010 but to having a good year in 2010 and beyond.
So with that operator I turn it over to questions.
(Operator Instructions). We will hear first from Paul (inaudible) with Stifel Nicolaus.
I have couple of questions on the coal side. One I was curious what role weather played in the royalty tons that you ended up recording in the fourth quarter and possibly into the first half of 2010 and I know that we have heard some of the other core miners out there complaining that because of weather the rail is not working, they should have been. So just curious if that an impact and if you expect that to sort of show itself in the first quarter?
Keith what do you think?
Well in the fourth quarter 2009 we really didn't have any interruptions in regard to transportation. 2010 we certainly have seen some impact due to weather in terms of lost production time and sort of the backlogs in shipping. Generally that works through the system and I don't think that we will see a significant impact during the quarter as it will walk out but it will probably be more weighted toward the end of the quarter than it is in January's numbers etcetera.
So, I think we will see some weathery impacts, keep in mind a lot of our coal that leased out of Virginia moves into the southeast that has had very little impact due to weather. More of our coal out of our West Virginia and the Eastern Kentucky properties moved east where than that has been impacted, but it will be delayed but certainly made up overtime.
And then maybe on the met side, it sounds like you're leaning more towards that 10% of production going in the met rather than that 15% which I guess is indicative of probably a good year. But one thing that we heard [console] has said that they have started to market some of their barely coal out of Northern Appalachia as a met coal into Asia, just curious if you have heard any of our lessees talk about that possibly mentioned some Northern App, some interest from Asia in some of the Northern App coal or if there is a chemistry allowed for that?
We don't have a lot of Northern App exposure. We've got some about 4, 4.5 million tons of annual production it goes out in the northern App. Largely, dependent on how the lessee done sales approach the market. Most our met coal is shipped out of Southern West Virginia and South Western Virginia, and those are historic. The number about 10% is sort of a historic number that we've seen overtime of coal moving in to that particular market, both the domestic market and the export market are seeing some pickups. There maybe some upside. Paul in those particular areas moving into the met market, but we do not have it forecasted in our current budget.
We will take our next question from Scott Hanold with RBC Capital Markets.
Scott Hanold - RBC Capital Markets
Can you talk a little about the Midstream business in East Texas, you talked about the Cross Roads getting full here by the end of the quarter and now you kind a talk within prior conference calls but what is the plan there and what kind of activity you are seeing from the operators that you would be taking in processing gas from?
Scott this is Ron. We've obviously seen our [only NP] company was in drilling there and they are drilling Haynesville wells but they also tell us they have plans to drill some horizontal Cotton Valley wells later this year. So that's giving us enough lift and obviously offsetting some of the decline we have seen there. In addition and I don't want to name specific customers but we have one fairly substantial driller in that area who is given us and we have some of their gas in the plant now they are about to bring on two Haynesville wells. They've given us a schedule that includes at least two Haynesville wells a month through the summer.
So given the results they've had so far given the results we've seen from PVOG and its partner GMX so far that we project that we will fill the plant up. Now a lot of these gas is Haynesville gas so its barely processed if you will and in fact we are doing only fee based processing there but we are working on right now in fact we are in the middle of it because adding bypass and blending capacity around the plant. The plants is an 80 million a day plant and we will substantially increase the volumes we're able to handle and move on to Perryville by adding compression and adding some header pipe and we're also constructing about a 10 mile 12 inch lateral to be able to segregate lean gas from richer gas into the plant. So we'll be able to blend and bypass in the commercial arrangements we have, we get exactly the same thing, whether the gas goes through the plant or gets blended and bypassed around it. So, I hope that answered your question.
Yes, clearly. I mean bypassing it is obviously at much more economic for you, because you don't have to build the processing slowly. Is that a fair statement?
That's a fair statement.
And is there any kind of constraints to get to the gas appraisal from I guess what would be your main sort of cap point?
Not that we can see right now. We've been working with Center point to make sure there is capacity for the increase in volumes that we see and there is capacity. So, we feel comfortable with and we think we're just fine in that regard.
So, at this point do you see enough demand beyond the $80 million a day you have right now to think in terms of building those additional…
They are under construction right now.
Okay, and how big is it going to be?
As far as volume goes?
It should give us at least another $40 million a day.
Okay and then have you said with is going to cost you?
In general it's going to cost roughly about $8 million, total for the pipe end compression.
Okay, got it. All right thanks for that. And bigger picture, when you look at your distribution, your coverage. You all had a pretty nice quarter here, how do you think about increasing your distribution in the coming quarters, obviously a little bit of political change could have an impact on that, but how do you think about that right now?
Well, Scott, we tried to be prudent in (inaudible) our capital and recognizing that people buy MLPs for distributions. Nonetheless, there is going to be I think some opportunities to make acquisitions and do some other things on one hand and there is so much uncertainty about the economy on the other that I think I don't anticipate seeing an increase in distributions certainly next quarter and I really don't want to speculate beyond that, but there is no set plan right now to increase distributions in any dramatic way, I can tell you that. It yields of almost 10%. I think that the unit holders are getting a pretty good return particularly considering the tax advantages that are embedded in all of this.
We certainly understand again, that MLPs people buy them for the distributions and its our intention and its been our history to be pretty consistent in increasing those. What we don't want to find ourselves overextended and so if I can get a little more I and when I say I, I mean the board, the management and get a little more comfortable with the economy I would hopefully could increase distributions but I surely don't want to mislead you into thinking that's coming real soon.
Okay, is it a fair statement then to say when looking at your coverage as you look forward you are a bit more conservative than you may have been a couple of years ago on a relative basis?
A couple of years ago we were at one to and we're not at one to, now we're at 113 or 11 depending on which set of forecasts you are looking at. If we are up from 12, I think we are comfortable again but much below that I at least speak enough for myself get a little nervous.
Our next question comes from Ron Londe with Wells Fargo.
Ron Londe - Wells Fargo
A lot of my questions have been asked already but just to maybe elaborate on the last question. As you go into the second half of 2010, the key variables that you are going to be looking at on whether you will increase the distribution or not basically, pricing of coal and where the outlook for the coal pricing is and what kind of drilling that increases you might be seeing as we go into 2010, 2011.
Certainly commodity prices and the forecast for them and how much confidence you have in them will drive how we look at things and I would say gas prices as much as coal prices are not, yes coal is a bigger piece of what we do, but as you heard me say and pretty much the way our lessees are looking at things, they are not planning to produce anything they haven't sold. So they have sold it and we know those prices and even a dramatic increase in price won't change those contracts, what it would change is presumably there would be more of a spot market and so if there was dramatic change in the price of coal and that would imply to me that the economy is somehow really rebounded, that would be certainly a factor.
The price of gas is important because in the [Ron's] business he is depending on people drilling wells and if the price of gas were to sink back down into the low fours again, just has happened in the first quarter of 2009, you would expect or I would expect, a curtailment of drilling or certainly a slowdown in the increasing activity that Ron was talking about a few minutes ago. So Ron one day I think it's the price of gas is probably as important as the price of coal, even though coals are a bigger contributor to our cash flow.
And we have time for one more question, we'll hear from James (inaudible).
Just to elaborate on Ron there. If the price of gas is lower, doesn't that help your frac spreads or is it much more sort of volume dependent?
The frac spread is the difference between the price of oil and the price of gas to say it simply. If the price of oil stays constant, the price of gas falls, yes, I guess the frac spread increases but then you have to say well, how much of your cash flow stream is driven by those key (inaudible) sort of contracts versus PLP and if the price of gas falls it doesn't help PLP versus fee based which is insensitive with price of gas except that if the gas isn't being produced there is no fees and so at the end of the day, I think its what I was trying to say is a dramatic change in the price of gas, one way or the other that would either encourage quite a bit more drilling than we expect today or discourage it, I think is a driving factor.
And then thinking about the coverage going forward this year, should we think about it in terms of sort of a 1.1 range given your guidance?
I think yes, between 1.1 and 1.2 the sort of our budgets in forecast are putting us, as I said at least historically we've been one, two or even above it. As a matter of speaking for myself now recognizing boards of directors and other people have a say in these things. One, two is where I'm comfortable, below what I'm less comfortable.
Last question about PVG, as we look at market conditions going forward, how does the market condition, how do you think about that in terms of timing of the monetization of some of the remaining PVG stakes?
Well, you've made an assumption there that we're going to do that. I'm fully aware there is a shelf up there which allows us to do it. There isn't any set plan to monetize it at any particular point. Clearly, we've said in our 10-Qs and then when I say we I now mean Penn Virginia Corporation that PVG is an important asset, but it's a non-core asset and we did monetize a piece of it. We may monetize another, but right now there is no firm plan to that I can say at such and such date we're going to do it, maybe you're saying something different. If it gets to a certain price, would we monetize it? And the answer is we probably will, would, but nobody knows precisely what that prices or at least I don't because again that something the board of directors would have to decide on a course of action.
When you look at it in the market, what are the sort of things other than the price of the PVG itself that makes us sort of more or less predisposed?
It's a non-core asset to PVA as I've said. PVA is an oil and gas company. It's one that wants to grow. It's a different phone call, and you want to listen in an hour and half. You can hear it, but it's very active right now and the Haynesville, it's very active in the Marcellus, it's very active in the Granite Wash. All these things eat capital, there is going to be opportunities to make acquisitions so there could easily be circumstances where PVA may decide that having more oil and gas assets is more important in maintaining its interest in PVG that's to be determined.
And this time I'll like turn things back over to Mr. Dearlove for closing remark.
Thank you operator and again I think we've tried to cover the water front here. As I said this is press release is available on PVRs website as well as this conference call be and so with that we are thank you for you participation and talk to you in another quarter. Thank you all.
Once again ladies and gentlemen that concludes our call today. Thank you all for your participation.
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