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Integrys Energy Group, Inc. (NYSE:TEG)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

May 3, 2012 9:00 a.m. ET

Executives

Steven Eschbach - Vice President, Investor Relations

Charles Schrock - Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Joseph O'Leary - Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Daniel Verbanac - President, Integrys Energy Services, Inc.

Mark Radtke - Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer

Analysts

Ashar Khan - Visium Asset Management

Ali Agha - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

John Ali - Decade Capital

Maury May - Power Insights

Operator

Welcome to the First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call for Integrys Energy Group, Incorporated. All lines will remain in listen-only until the question-and-answer session. At that time, instructions will be given should you wish to participate. At the request of Integrys Energy Group, today’s call will be recorded for instant replay.

I would now like to introduce today’s host, Mr. Steve Eschbach, Vice President of Investor Relations at Integrys Energy Group. Sir, you may now begin.

Steven Eschbach

Thank you very much and good morning everyone. Welcome to the Integrys Energy Group’s first quarter 2012 earnings conference call. Delivering formal remarks with me today are Charlie Schrock, our Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Joe O’Leary, our Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Other executives including Mark Radtke, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of Integrys Energy Group; and Dan Verbanac, President of Integrys Energy Services are available for the question-and-answer session at the conclusion of our formal remarks.

Larry Borgard, our President and Chief Operating Officer, Utilities, is unable to make to today’s call due to an American Gas Association event. As many of you know Larry is the 2012 Chairman of AGA. The slide supporting today’s presentation and an associated data package are located on our website at www.integrysgroup.com. Select Investors, select presentations and then today’s presentation. Before we begin, I will advice everyone that this call is being recorded and will be available for audio replay through August 7, 2012.

I need to direct you to slide three of our presentation and to point out that this presentation contains forward-looking statements within the definition of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission Safe Harbor rules, including projected results for Integrys Energy Group and its subsidiaries. Forward-looking statements contain factors that are beyond our ability to control and in many cases we cannot predict what factors would cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by forward-looking statements. Except as maybe required by federal securities laws, we undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement contained in this presentation whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

This slide is a condensed summary on forward-looking statements and you are encouraged to read and understand the more specific language that is contained in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our quarterly report on form 10-Q we filed last evening the forward-looking statements section of yesterday’s news release and slide 41 in the appendix.

Slide four today indicates that presentation includes non-GAAP financial information related to diluted earnings per share adjusted and adjusted earnings or loss. We believe that these are useful financial measures for providing investors with additional insight into our operating performance because they eliminate the effects of certain items that are not comparable from one period to the next. Please review the text of this slide for more information regarding these non-GAAP financial measures.

I will now turn this call over to Charlie Schrock. Charlie?

Charles Schrock

Thanks, Steve. Good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining us on the call today. I’ll begin by providing a high-level overview of our first quarter 2012 financial results and operational highlights. Joe O’Leary will then discuss our financial results in more detail and provide a summary of our financial outlook for 2012, and as usual we will conclude with a question-and-answer session.

Turning to slide five. In the first quarter of 2012 we posted diluted earnings per share adjusted on a consolidated basis of $1.55, down $0.02 per share versus the same period a year ago. Of course, the big question is the impact that we saw from weather, namely, the very warm winter that we experienced. The good news is that with the various decoupling mechanisms we have in place for certain of our regulated utilities, the weather impact is much less than it might have been. But there was still an $8 million after-tax impact for our regulated utilities or $0.10 per share as shown on the slide.

There is also a $2 million after-tax impact due to weather for Integrys Energy Services. Consequently, given the warmer winter weather in the first quarter of 2012 and depending on the Illinois retail electric aggregation results that are still unfolding for Integrys Energy Services, we expect that we may be towards the lower end of our 2012 guidance for diluted earnings per share adjusted of $3.35 to $3.55.

Slide six provides a brief operational update on our regulated utilities. While the warmer winter weather had an adverse impact on our quarterly earnings, it was beneficial for our Accelerated Main Replacement Program in Chicago. During the first quarter of 2012, we were able to install a little over 25 miles of new pipe. We estimate that we will be able to install close to 200 miles of new pipe during 2012 compared with the 154 miles we installed in 2011. As we mentioned previously, we expect recovery of this investment through traditional ratemaking as part of our 2012 rate order and the 2013 Peoples Gas rate case which will be filed in August.

At Wisconsin Public Service, the environmental retrofit project for our jointly owned Columbia power plant is progressing. In addition, we plan to seek approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on a certificate of authority for environmental retrofits at our Weston 3 unit, sometime in the second quarter, and we expect Commission approval in early 2013. On the rate case front, Wisconsin Public Service filed its 2012 rate case on March 30, for new rates effective January 1, 2013. In Minnesota, the Administrative Law Judge issued a draft decision in Minnesota Energy Resources rate proceedings in early April with the final decision expected in the second half of 2012. Summary of the recent rate cases can be found on slides 21 through 26 in the appendix.

Turning to slide seven, I’ll provide some comments regarding the operations of Integrys Energy Services. There were a number of circumstances that adversely impacted first quarter results. I mentioned earlier that weather had a negative impact. If you look at the earnings variance drivers page in our news release or on slide 36 in the appendix of today’s presentation, you’ll see that the increasing competition, the performance of our legacy power plant assets and margins, all had a negative effect on Integrys Energy Services operations this past quarter. But despite these headwinds, there is good news to report at our non-regulated segment. First of all, our customer retention remains strong. Beginning with 2012, we are now tracking retention in three different ways, by customer count, volumes and margins. During the first quarter of 2012 our retention rate was 95% or better for customer count and margins, and 86% for volumes.

As we mentioned in our news release, contracts with several large lower margin customers expired at the end of 2011 and consequently affected the volume retention rate. And although delivered natural gas and electric volumes for 2012 were down quarter-over-quarter, contracted volumes as of March 31, 2012 for the balance of the year were up. This is shown on slide 28 in the appendix. And although it’s not depicted on slide 28, I’ll note that forward contracted volumes for 2012 and beyond are up as well with natural gas up 5% and electric up over 9%. This last bit of data can be found on page 3 of the financial supplement in our earnings release.

Direct mass marketing for retail electric in Illinois had very good growth in the first quarter of 2012. We added 11,000 non-aggregation electric customers during the first quarter, increasing our total to 44,000 non-aggregation customers at March 31, 2012. We also added 30,000 electric aggregation customers during the first three months of 2012 bringing the total count of aggregation customers under contract as of March 31, to 74,000. And recently as a result of municipal voting in Illinois we were awarded 85,000 aggregation customers from seven different communities. These latest customers will come online in the third quarter.

Aggregation will continue to be an opportunity in Illinois. Thus far in 2012 about 240 communities in Illinois have approved retail electric aggregation during their municipal referendums in March, but less than 20% have chosen a supplier. Integrys Energy Services already has developed a track record of good performance in this space and we will continue to pursue these opportunities where it makes sense. These are typically announced publicly when awarded. We’ll include a consolidated summary as part of our next earnings conference call in August.

I’ll now turn the call over to Joe O’Leary. Joe.

Joseph O’Leary

Thanks, Charlie. I’ll cover our financial results for the first quarter of 2012 and discuss our guidance for 2012 diluted earnings per share adjusted. Beginning with slide eight. During the first quarter of 2012, we recognized GAAP diluted earnings per share of $1.25 for the quarter ended March 31, 2012 compared with $1.56 for the same quarter in 2011. This slide also sets forth the additions and subtractions we made to arrive at diluted earnings per share adjusted for the first quarter of 2012. Our diluted earnings per share adjusted for the first quarter 2012 was $1.55 compared with $1.57 in the same period in 2011. More comparative information on the first quarters of 2012 and 2011 is reported by segment on slides 31 and 32 in the appendix.

On slide nine, we present the changes in adjusted earnings by segment for the first quarter of 2012 compared with first quarter of 2011. Additional detail on the key variance drivers for each segment can be found in the appendix on slides 33 through 37. Moving to slide ten, we provided our capital expenditure plans for 2012 through 2014. The key segment drivers remain the same with environmental retrofits at Wisconsin Public Service for the electric utilities and the Accelerated Main Replacement Program at Peoples Gas in Chicago for the natural gas utilities.

We’ve adjusted the capital expenditures for Peoples Gas upward to reflect the additional new pipe we expect to install in Chicago this year. As well as an upgrade to a natural gas transmission project called Calumet, which is a $50 million addition in both 2013 and ‘14. Additionally, we’ve revised our equity contribution to American Transmission Company to $14 million in 2012 from $10 million. The rest remains the same with the exception of some shifting of capital expenditure dollars among the three years for Upper Peninsula Power.

Slide 11 shows our expected depreciation expense at the regulated utilities for 2012 through 2014. Our projected rate base for the three-year period has been revised and is reflected on slide 38 in the appendix. Moving to Slide 12, you will see our financing summary for 2012. We completed a $28 million 3.43% interest rate long-term financing at North Shore Gas in early April which will mature in 15 years. We still expect to complete long-term financing transactions for Wisconsin Public Service and Peoples Gas as we previously discussed, without the need to issue common stock in 2012.

Turning to slide 13, our guidance for 2012 diluted earnings per share adjusted on a consolidated basis is in the range of $3.35 to $3.55. It’s now on an adjusted basis because we are removing the positive $1.9 million after-tax impact of the Illinois tax benefit related to Peoples Energy Production Company. On slide 14, you’ll see the only segment guidance changes in holding company and other to reflect this onetime tax benefit. We have not changed any of the other segment projections that we disclosed during our fourth quarter 2011 conference call on February 29, but as Charlie mentioned, we now expect that we maybe towards the lower end of this guidance range.

Now, I’ll turn the call back over to Charlie Schrock. Charlie?

Charles Schrock

Thanks, Joe. Before taking your questions, I’ll summarize the highlights from this morning as shown on slide 15. First, continued execution of our business plan by our portfolio of regulated and non-regulated businesses. Our operational excellence initiatives and our cost control efforts will enable us to meet our 2012 financial objectives. Our 34% ownership in the American Transmission Company continues to contribute to earnings as expected.

Our guidance for 2012 diluted earnings per share adjusted on a consolidated basis remains in the $3.35 to $3.55 range, but we maybe towards the lower end of range. I’ve described some of the headwinds that we’ve encountered in the first quarter, but I can assure you that we are committed to mitigate these impacts over the course of the year. Finally, we continue to expect growth in diluted earnings per share adjusted of 4% to 6% on an average annualized basis with 2011 as the base year through 2015.

We will now open the call for your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) The first question is from Ashar Khan from Visium.

Ashar Khan - Visium Asset Management

Good morning. Joe, I saw you guys give the rate base on the last slides. Could you just tell us to what is the expectation of equity to finance the growth? Could you give us some highlights till 2014?

Charles Schrock

Good morning, Ashar. Joe is going to get to that page so he can explain it to you.

Joseph O’Leary

The slide that you are referring to is slide 38. I believe the projected rate base 2012 to 2014, is that correct, Ashar?

Ashar Khan - Visium Asset Management

Yeah. That is correct. I wanted to, as we try to kind of like estimate earnings, what should we kind of -- can you give us some help with how much equity could be needed during that timeframe?

Joseph O’Leary

Although we are not giving out financing details, I think generally you can expect that we will try to maintain our equity ratio on a consolidated basis somewhere between 50% to 55% and the rest to be financed through debt.

Ashar Khan - Visium Asset Management

Okay. But usually what you had needed what like $50 million or $70 million of equity annually? I know bonus depreciation is helping you this year and it says it helps you in ’13. Could you give us any kind of indication of what equity needs could be without bonus depreciation?

Joseph O’Leary

At this time Ashar, we are only giving out information relative to 2012. We are waiting to see what other cash flow sources will come up. As you know there is various things going on in the government right now. There could be an extension of bonus depreciation and that’s throwing off a lot of cash for us the last couple of years, so that’s a possibility. There are other things that we are looking at relative to cash flows as well.

Ashar Khan - Visium Asset Management

Okay. If I can just --

Charles Schrock

-- on financing for 2013 as we get closer towards that year.

Ashar Khan - Visium Asset Management

Okay. Could you just help us, how much bonus depreciation is helping you in ‘12?

Joseph O’Leary

In 2012 we are getting somewhere I think between $150 million to $240 million.

Operator

The next question is from Ali Agha from SunTrust.

Ali Agha - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey

Thank you, good morning. Charlie or Joe, you know your Energy Services results were less than half of what they were in the first quarter of last year. And yet your guidance for the year would still imply that Energy Services at a minimum is flat but in the mid-point is actually above last year. So can you give us some more color of why you are confident? You can do that given where first quarter has trended so far?

Charles Schrock

Yeah, Ali, let me comment a little bit, then I’ll have Dan Verbanac chime in. Fundamentally we are growing the business as I noted in the earlier remarks. We are seeing some positive things in terms of the growth of the business and customer retention. The aggregation opportunities in Illinois are still out there. So we do still see opportunities in that area. We did have some one-time things that kind of impacted us this first quarter, but we are going to try to overcome those as well. So, Dan, any additional comments.

Daniel Verbanac

Sure. Good morning, Ali. With the headwinds that already have been mentioned certainly getting to the mid-point on the Integrys Energy Services guidance range that was provided in February, will be a challenge but there are certainly some positive items that will assist in pushing us toward that range. On slide 36, it talks about the variances from quarter-to-quarter. There were some timing issues that hit in the first quarter of 2012 that will reverse out later this year. Second, the new aggregation loan that we are bringing on in Illinois really won’t start hitting the books until the end of the second quarter and third quarter of this year. And then on slide 28, although delivered volumes were down slightly in the first quarter of 2012 on the gas side, that was primarily driven by weather. Contracted volumes were up, as Charlie mentioned for remainder of 2012.

In the third quarter of last year, we talked about entering the Mid-Atlantic gas market, and we have entered that region and now have gotten our licenses and have started putting some new business on in the Mid-Atlantic region. And then recently we received a license to sell power in the Pepco service territory in Pennsylvania. So that’s another growth area we are looking at in 2012. So all those things combined, we think give us a chance to hit our guidance that we put out in February of this year.

Ali Agha - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey

And sort of longer term, I know in the past you guys talked about you’re looking at maybe 5% to 7% growth from this business, but more back-end loaded. Have any of those parameters changed? You still think that’s the longer-term growth and are you still comfortable that you’ll get it even though it’ll be back-end loaded?

Joseph O’Leary

Yes. Ali, we have put plans in place that get us to the 6% to 8% growth over that time period that we had outlined based on 2011. Part of that -- you know as we came out of restructuring a few years ago as a retail-only marketing company, we had certain return expectations going forward. And we did expect to lose some larger customers lower margin, and we did both on the gas and power side. On the gas side, that happened primarily at the end of 2010 and 2011. On the power side coincidentally, we lost some of those customers right at the end of 2011. But going forward, we’re targeting customers where we can add value to the bottom line and get the returns that we expect from this business going forward and we’ve got plans in place that we think will get us there by 2015.

Ali Agha - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey

Okay. One last question, Joe, for you. I think you alluded to in the numbers, there were some tax benefit that you accrued or booked in the first quarter. Can you just elaborate on that? And your effective tax rate looked like around just 32.4% in the quarter, what should we be looking at for the full year 2012?

Joseph O’Leary

With regards to the tax benefit, it had to do, it related to a state income tax issue associated with the sale of our oil and gas production business back around 2007, 2008 timeframe when we sold that business right after the merger. And I think it’s about maybe $1.9 million and you find that in discontinued operations. That’s the bulk of it. The rest of it is just you know, typically we’ve got changes in the mix of income within various state jurisdictions and they are going to affect our effective rates from time to time. And your other question was, what we expect the effective rate to be About where it’s at, where you see at the end of the first quarter is probably a good idea of where we expect to be by the end of the year.

Operator

The next question is from Steven Gambuzza, Millennium.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Good morning. I just wanted to make sure I understood a couple of the numbers that were introduced in the call. There was change to the holdings and other segment guidance related to that tax benefit in the quarter, is that right? You increased the guidance, the earnings guidance for that segment by $0.03, is that correct?

Joseph O’Leary

Yeah, the guidance on a GAAP basis got increased for that particular item. On an adjusted basis there is no change in the consolidated earnings per share.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Okay. I guess did you, in looking at the adjustments when you walk from reported to adjusted results, did you exclude that benefit from the first quarter adjusted holding company net income?

Joseph O’Leary

Steve, if you go to slide 8 in today’s presentation slide deck, we have broken that information out there. And you can see one of the things that we pull out of diluted EPS on a GAAP basis is the net non-cash losses related to derivative and inventory accounting activities. That sits in our Energy Services business. And if you hover on slide 14 we actually show the mechanics of what’s coming out and what changed in the guidance, February through -- taking February’s guidance versus the guidance we are providing today. The other pieces, I wanted to wrap it up is on the discontinued operations, and it’s about $0.03.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Okay. What if I look at slide 37 which shows the walk from adjusted loss in Q1 ‘11 to adjusted loss in Q4 ’12, and I see a $4 million net benefit from re-measurement of unrecognized tax liability.

Joseph O’Leary

Right.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Is that the same thing that we are talking about, or is that different?

Joseph O’Leary

It’s different.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Okay. So there was -- so in addition to what you talked about there was a $4 million net benefit from re-measurement of deferred tax liability that was included in adjusted earnings?

Joseph O’Leary

That’s correct.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Okay. And that was part of the original guidance.

Joseph O’Leary

Yeah. That was kind of contemplated in the original guidance.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Okay. And then just to go back to the energy services discussion. It sounds like you’re expecting, you pointed to the retail aggregation customers that are going to come on in Q3 as a significant driver for the expected improvement in earnings in the last three quarters of the year. Are the margins on those customers, are they somewhat similar to what the average margin that you booked in the first quarter for the segment.

Charles Schrock

I’ll have Dan address that, okay.

Daniel Verbanac

Sure. We are certainly seeing pressure on unit margins, but that’s -- we’ve seen that more on with larger customers. Assuming market condition stayed the same we expect our per unit margins to drift down over time, but a lot of the business that will flow through in 2012 have been put on the books in 2011-2010 and maintained higher margins. As far as aggregation themselves, I would say the margins we’re seeing there are similar to what we’ve seen in the past, slightly lower, but certainly that’s a segment of customer where we think we can get the returns that we are looking for from this business going forward.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Okay. And I guess, so if we think about the drivers of improved earnings over the balance of the year. It sounds like it’s going to be primarily volume driven as opposed to margin driven. Is that a fair -- in terms of improved volumes versus improved per unit margins, is that a fair characterization.

Daniel Verbanac

I think that’s fair, yeah.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Okay. And then I noticed cost ticked up sequentially in the quarter in the segment. Was there anything unusual or is that the first quarter run rate for costs relatively consistent with what you’d expect for the balance of the year?

Joseph O’Leary

Yeah, I think costs are consistent, and I’m surprised to say that our O&M costs were down slightly quarter-over-quarter.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) The next question is from John Ali from Decade Capital.

John Ali - Decade Capital

Good morning, guys. Couple of very quick questions, with regards to guidance, was the initial guidance given based on normal weather for the entire year?

Charles Schrock

That is correct, John. We always assume normal weather as we project out the future.

John Ali - Decade Capital

Okay. But I’m saying because that was given late in quarter, did you not take into account January and February?

Charles Schrock

Well, by the time we did the earnings conference call we really only had one month closed in terms of wrapped up and that was January. We hadn’t yet closed the books for February. So all we really incorporated in is we assumed the normal weather for the remainder of the year from the end of January on.

John Ali - Decade Capital

Fair enough. And I apologize if I missed this, but you guys raised guidance for CapEx in Illinois, and I assume that’s pipeline replacement?

Charles Schrock

Actually, John, it is part of our maintenance of the pipelines, but there is kind of an additional increment of pipe that Joe mentioned in his remarks that we’ve included in the 2013 and 2014 numbers.

John Ali - Decade Capital

And how will that be recovered? Just traditional ratemaking?

Charles Schrock

Yeah, through traditional ratemaking.

Operator

The next question is from Steven Gambuzza from Millennium.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Sorry, I just wanted to follow-up on the O&M expense at ESI. I guess the last, the third and fourth quarters of 2011 were $24 million, and I know it’s a pretty good improvement from the $30 million run rate in the first half of ‘11. I guess I was expecting some of those cost savings to stick. Should we assume that we are kind of back at that first half run rate or the second half run rate for ‘11?

Charles Schrock

Steve, hold on just a second so we can kind of look at those numbers.

Joseph O’Leary

Yeah. On slide 36, it shows the decreased expenses quarter-over-quarter. As far as, that is one of our drivers that we look at and we are certainly looking to manage our O&M expenses relative to the new business that we bring on. I think our O&M costs for 2012 will be in line with 2011 overall.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Okay.

Joseph O’Leary

One of the big drivers in our direct mass-market business that drives O&M is marketing costs. And with the aggregation programs, we have lower marketing costs relative to bringing those customers on versus listing customers one at a time. So that actually helps our overall O&M budget also.

Steven Gambuzza - Millennium Partners

Okay. So, if it’s going to be in line with 2011, I mean this is going to decline from the first quarter run rate? So the $109 million in 2011 and you did $29.2 million in the first quarter.

Joseph O’Leary

I have to look at that and get back to you, Steve. When I look at our O&M budget overall for 2012, it certainly is higher than 2011 but with the adjustments in the new business we are bringing on more aggregation business than non-aggregation business. Those numbers will also change, so I’ll take a look at that.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) The next question is from Maury May from Power Insights

Maury May - Power Insights

Yeah. Good morning, folks. I want to go back to slide 14 which is the guidance slide, and I apologize if you already went over some of this, but in the diluted EPS GAAP you have a breakdown of five different items or segments. And I was just wondering, you are overall guiding us to the lower end of your guidance range, but can you go through the five different segments and say which ones you are guiding to the lower end or maybe all of them, I don’t know.

Charles Schrock

Yeah, Maury, at this point of the year, there is a lot of moving parts. It’s really kind of -- on a consolidated basis, we have a good deal of confidence in terms of where we are headed but it’s hard to predict exactly what’s going on, on a segment basis. So, at this point, we really don’t want to have any specific comments on the segments.

Operator

Now I’d like to turn the call back over to Steve Eschbach for closing remarks.

Steven Eschbach

Thank you. And thank you for being part of our first quarter earnings conference call. I apologize for the phone ring that you heard during Joe’s formal remarks. Most of us in this room are iPad proficient and as such we no longer understand how to operate traditional telephone technology. A replay of this conference call will be available until August 7, 2012 by dialing toll free 888-562-2788. The full transcript of today’s conference call minus the phone ringing will be available on our website at www.integrysgroup.com, before the end of the day on Thursday, May 10, 2012. Just select Investors and then Presentation. If you have any additional questions you may contact me directly at 312-228-5408 or Donna Sheedy at 920-433-1857. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you for participating in today’s call. The conference has now ended. You may disconnect at this time.

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