News Column


February 4, 2014

This section analyzes the financial condition and results of operations of The Laclede Group, Inc. ( Laclede Group or the Company) and its subsidiaries. It includes management's view of factors that affect its business, explanations of past financial results including changes in earnings and costs from the prior year periods, and their effects on the Company's overall financial condition and liquidity. Certain matters discussed in this report, excluding historical information, include forward-looking statements. Certain words, such as "may," "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "expect," "intend," "plan," "seek," and similar words and expressions identify forward-looking statements that involve uncertainties and risks. Future developments may not be in accordance with our current expectations or beliefs and the effect of future developments may not be those anticipated. Among the factors that may cause results to differ materially from those contemplated in any forward-looking statement are: weather conditions and catastrophic events, particularly severe weather in the natural gas producing areas of the country; volatility in gas prices, particularly sudden and sustained changes in natural gas prices, including the related impact on margin deposits associated with the use of natural gas derivative instruments; the impact of changes and volatility in natural gas prices on our competitive position in relation to suppliers of alternative heating sources, such as electricity; changes in gas supply and pipeline availability, including decisions by natural gas producers to reduce production or shut in producing natural gas wells, expiration of existing supply and transportation arrangements that are not replaced with contracts with similar terms and pricing, as well as other changes that impact supply for and access to the markets in which our subsidiaries transact business; legislative, regulatory and judicial mandates and decisions, some of which may be retroactive, including those affecting allowed rates of return incentive regulation industry structure purchased gas adjustment provisions rate design structure and implementation regulatory assets non-regulated and affiliate transactions franchise renewals environmental or safety matters, including the potential impact of legislative and regulatory actions related to climate change and pipeline safety taxes pension and other postretirement benefit liabilities and funding obligations accounting standards; the results of litigation; retention of, ability to attract, ability to collect from, and conservation efforts of, customers; capital and energy commodity market conditions, including the ability to obtain funds with reasonable terms for necessary capital expenditures and general operations and the terms and conditions imposed for obtaining sufficient gas supply; discovery of material weakness in internal controls; and employee workforce issues. The Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations should be read in conjunction with the Company's Consolidated Financial Statements and the Notes thereto. 26 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Table of Contents RESULTS OF OPERATIONS Overview Laclede Group's earnings are primarily derived from its Gas Utility segment, which reflects the regulated activities of Laclede Gas Company (the Utility), Missouri's largest natural gas distribution company. The Utility is regulated by the Missouri Public Service Commission (MoPSC) and serves the City of St. Louis and eastern Missouri through Laclede Gas and Kansas City and western Missouri through Missouri Gas Energy (MGE). The Utility delivers natural gas to retail customers at rates and in accordance with tariffs authorized by the MoPSC. The Utility's earnings are primarily generated by the sale of heating energy. Laclede Gas' weather mitigation rate design and MGE's straight fixed variable rate design lessen the impact of weather volatility on its customers during cold winters and stabilizes the Utility's earnings by recovering fixed costs more evenly during the heating season. Due to the seasonal nature of the business of the Utility, Laclede Group's earnings are typically concentrated during the heating season of November through April each year, although earnings for Missouri Gas Energy (MGE) are less seasonal than earnings from Laclede Gas , due to MGE's straight fixed-variable rate design which recovers fixed costs more evenly over the year. Effective September 1, 2013 , the Utility completed the purchase of substantially all of the assets and liabilities of Missouri Gas Energy (MGE), a utility engaged in the distribution of natural gas on a regulated basis in western Missouri , from Southern Union Company (SUG), an affiliate of Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. and Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. The purchase was completed pursuant to the purchase agreement dated December 14, 2012 . Under the terms of the purchase agreement, the Utility acquired MGE for a purchase price of $975 million . Also, on December 12, 2012 , a subsidiary of Laclede Group , Plaza Massachusetts Acquisition Inc. (Plaza Mass), agreed to purchase New England Gas Company (NEG) from SUG. Subsequently, on February 11, 2013 , the Company agreed to sell Plaza Mass to Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. (APUC). On December 13, 2013 , the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (MDPU) approved the transfer of NEG to an APUC subsidiary. Consistent with the February 11, 2013 agreements, on December 20, 2013 , the Company closed the sale of Plaza Mass to an APUC subsidiary and received $11.0 million from APUC. This receipt of funds effectively reduced the Company's purchase price of MGE to $964 million . On December 24, 2013 , the Massachusetts Attorney General filed a Motion for Clarification/Reconsideration with the MDPU which, among other things, claims that legislative approval is required for a transfer of utility assets. The MDPU has not yet acted on the Attorney General's Motion. The Utility is currently in negotiations with SUG regarding adjustments in the purchase price of MGE due to changes in the actual net assets transferred to the Utility at closing on August 31, 2013 from the level at September 30, 2012 . The Utility plans to adjust cash and goodwill for any change as a result of this process upon final settlement, which is anticipated to be in the second quarter of fiscal 2014. The acquisition was accounted for under the acquisition method of accounting in accordance with ASC 805 ("Topic 805"), "Business Combinations." Accordingly, goodwill was measured as the excess of the acquisition-date fair value of the consideration transferred over the amount of acquisition-date identifiable assets acquired net of assumed liabilities. The Utility recorded $235.8 million of goodwill as an asset in the consolidated balance sheet. Laclede Energy Resources, Inc. (LER) is engaged in the marketing of natural gas and related activities on a non-regulated basis and is reported in the Gas Marketing segment. LER markets natural gas to both on-system Utility transportation customers and customers outside of the Utility's traditional service territory, including large retail and wholesale customers. LER's operations and customer base are more subject to fluctuations in market conditions than the Utility. LER entered into a 10 year contract for 1 Bcf for natural gas storage effective August 1, 2013 and has an additional 1 Bcf storage contracted through January 2016 . 27 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Table of Contents EARNINGS The Laclede Group reports net income and earnings per share determined in accordance with GAAP. Management also uses the non-GAAP measures of net economic earnings and net economic earnings per share when internally evaluating results of operations. These non-GAAP measures exclude from net income the after-tax impacts of fair value accounting and timing adjustments associated with energy-related transactions as well as acquisition, divestiture, and restructuring activities. These adjustments include timing differences where the accounting treatment differs from the economic substance of the underlying transaction, including the following: Net unrealized gains and losses on energy-related derivatives that are required by GAAP fair value accounting associated with current changes in the fair value of financial and physical transactions prior to their completion and settlement. These unrealized gains and losses result primarily from two sources: 1) changes in the fair values of physical and/or financial derivatives prior to the period of settlement; and, 2) ineffective portions of accounting hedges, required to be recorded in earnings prior to settlement, due to differences in commodity price changes between the locations of the forecasted physical purchase or sale transactions and the locations of the underlying hedge instruments; Lower of cost or market adjustments to the carrying value of commodity inventories resulting when the market price of the commodity falls below its original cost, to the extent that those commodities are economically hedged; and Realized gains and losses resulting from the settlement of economic hedges prior to the sale of the physical commodity. Acquisition, divestiture, and restructuring activities, when evaluating on-going performance. These adjustments eliminate the impact of timing differences and the impact of current changes in the fair value of financial and physical transactions prior to their completion and settlement. Unrealized gains or losses are recorded in each period until being replaced with the actual gains or losses realized when the associated physical transaction(s) occur. While management uses these non-GAAP measures to evaluate both the Utility and LER, the net effect of adjustments on the Utility's earnings is minimal because gains or losses on its natural gas derivative instruments are deferred pursuant to its PGA Clause, as authorized by the MoPSC. Management believes that excluding the earnings volatility caused by recognizing changes in fair value prior to settlement and other timing differences associated with related purchase and sale transactions provides a useful representation of the economic effects of only the actual settled transactions and their effects on results of operations. In addition, management excludes the impact related to unique acquisition, divestiture, and restructuring activities, when evaluating on-going performance, and therefore excludes these impacts from net economic earnings. Management believes that this presentation provides a useful representation of operating performance by facilitating comparisons of year-over-year results. These internal non-GAAP operating metrics should not be considered as an alternative to, or more meaningful than, GAAP measures such as net income. Reconciliations of net economic earnings and net economic earnings per share to the Company's most directly comparable GAAP measures are provided below. 28 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Table of Contents

For more stories on investments and markets, please see HispanicBusiness' Finance Channel

Source: Edgar Glimpses

Story Tools