Westar Energy Inc WR
Q4 2012 Earnings Call Transcript

Transcript Call Date 03/01/2013

Operator: Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Q4 2012 Westar Energy Earnings Conference Call. My name is Andrew and I will be your operator for today. At this time, all participants are in listen-only mode. We will conduct a question-and-answer session towards the end of this conference. As a reminder this call is being recorded for replay purposes.

I would to turn the call over to Mr. Bruce Burns, Director of Investor Relations. Please proceed, sir.

Bruce Burns - Director IR: Thank you. Good morning and welcome to our fourth quarter and year-end 2012 conference call. Last night, we filed our 10-K; it's on our website, along with the earnings release and supplemental materials under the Investors section.

Some of our remarks will be forward-looking, so I will remind you of uncertainties inherent in our comments, or that we may have including in materials that supplement the release. We encourage you to read the full disclosure and GAAP Reconciliations on our website and in our investor materials.

Commenting this morning will be Tony Somma, CFO; and Mark Ruelle, CEO. Other members of our senior management team are available to answer questions.

Tony will offer highlights on the quarter introduce three year CapEx, comment on 2013 financing potential and our earnings guidance. Mark will address planned regulatory activities, share few observations on our operations and address the dividend.

With that I will turn the call over to Tony.

Tony Somma - SVP, CFO, Treasurer: Thanks Bruce. Good morning everyone. We had a strong fourth quarter with earnings of $46 million or $0.36 per share, well above the $0.16 per share reported in 2011. Our gross margin increased $36 million or 11%, largely from price adjustments to improve reliability and infrastructure. Retail sales volumes for the quarter were up 1% due to higher industrial sales. Whether well not a big driver this time of year was mild in both fourth quarter 2011 and normal and was a principal reason for the decline in residential and commercial sales compared with 2011.

Stronger industrial sales results from oil refining, general manufacturing and aerospace. On the expense side operating expenses, excluding fuel and purchase power were up $9 million or 3% principal reasons for the increase include $9 million for SPP transmission expense, which has a revenue offset $6 million for higher pension and employee benefit costs pursuant to the April rate order and $3.5 million for contribution to our charitable foundation, the first contribution in several years. Partially offsetting those items were $3 million decrease at Wolf Creek and $6 million decrease in depreciation expenses reflecting lower depreciation rates which were also part of the rate order. Further income increased $4 million reflecting higher COLI proceeds, total COLI proceeds in 2012 were more than $17 million, $3 million more than what we had in our guidance.

Interest expense was $3 million higher for the quarter, as a result of our having issued $550 million of long term debt last year at very favorable rates. Like many of you I never thought we'd see a low full handle on (30 year) money. We obviously took full advantage of it and refinanced almost $0.25 billion a higher coupon debt and preferred stock.

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