Atmos posts 4Q loss on drop in natural gas prices

AP News
Posted: Nov 10, 2009 8:58 PM

Atmos Energy Corp. on Tuesday posted a fourth-quarter loss of $16 million, citing a plunge in natural gas consumption and prices that cut deeply into revenue this year.

The Dallas-based company, which stores and transports natural gas to a dozen states, reported a loss of 17 cents a share for the three months that ended Sept. 30. That compares with a profit of $1.6 million, or 2 cents a share, in the same quarter in 2008.

Revenue dropped 55 percent to $650 million, compared with the year-ago period.

Like many of its peers, Atmos' results slumped considerably when compared with the same period in 2008, when energy prices spiked. Last summer, natural gas contracts fetched about twice what they're asking for now on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

For the full year, Atmos said profit increased 6 percent to $191 million, or $2.08 a share, from $180.3 million, or $2 a share. Revenue fell 31 percent to $5 billion.

The company said it expects to earn between $2.15 and $2.25 a share in the 2010 fiscal year. It also expects profits next year of $153 million to $159 million in its regulated operations and $48 million to $52 million from nonregulated operations. Capital expenditures are expected to run from $520 million to $535 million in fiscal 2010.

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Analysts expected Atmos' fourth-quarter loss at 8 cents a share.

Separately, Atmos said its board of directors raised the company's quarterly dividend about 2 percent, or a half-cent, to 33.5 cents per share. The dividend is payable Dec. 10 to shareholders of record Nov. 25.

The company also said President and Chief Operating Officer Kim R. Cocklin has been elected to its board.

Atmos shares gave up 73 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $28.51 in after-hours trading following the release of its earnings report. In the regular session, the stock gained 7 cents to close at $29.24.