Williams Companies Inc. (NYSE:WMB) recently reported rather solid second-quarter results. Fueling those strong results was the company's growing supply of fee-based cash flow, which makes it largely immune to the impact of commodity prices. The company discussed that and other topics on its second-quarter conference call with analysts and investors. Here's are four key points the company made clear on that call.
1. We're still in the middle of our strategic review
Despite the strong quarter, one of the clouds currently hanging over Williams Companies is the fact that the company recently rejected a merger proposal from rival Energy Transfer Equity (NYSE:ET). While it rejected Energy Transfer Equity's initial offer, it did not close the book on a potential deal with Energy Transfer Equity or any other company. Instead, its board opened up a process to review strategic alternatives.
CEO Alan Armstrong led off his prepared comments on the call by updating investors on this process. He said that the company is exploring a "range of strategic alternatives that could include among other things, a merger, a sales of Williams or continuing to pursue the company's existing operating and growth plan." He noted that it's a "robust competitive process" that the company's believes is "the best way to get the best options on the table and to maximize shareholder value." That said, the company has yet to reach a conclusion of this process and won't comment further on the process until it makes its final decision.
2. We still see a lot of growth if we remain independent
The reason remaining independent is still a viable option is because the company has "a strong trajectory of growth in front of us," according to Armstrong. In fact, the company has a backlog of growth totaling more than $30 billion in potential investment opportunities through 2020.
In addition to that, Armstrong also noted that "a tremendous amount of growth continues to come at us." He said that the $30 billion number is "very rapidly growing," but that the company simply hasn't updated the number in a while because it's already so big. Furthermore, he noted that they are seeing a lot of potential for smaller M&A bolt-on opportunities, which is expanding its growth potential. In other words, the company is very excited about its future should it remain independent.
3. Our current operations are very solid
One of the reasons why Energy Transfer Equity would like to buy Williams Companies is because of the aforementioned strong growth it can deliver in the future. However, it's also drawn to the company's current operations, which are really firing on all cylinders right now. Armstrong pointed this out by noting that the company's adjusted EBITDA rose 32% to $1.02 billion while its MLP, Williams Partners (NYSE:WPZ), set a record for distributable cash flow at $702 million. Driving this strength amid the commodity market turmoil is the fact that Williams Partners continues to grow its fee-based revenue, which was up 72% year over year thanks in part to the acquisition of another affiliated MLP. This focus on growing its fees has helped the company more than offset any weakness from the downturn in the commodity market.
4. Dividend growth guidance is affirmed
Until a final decision is made on a sale, Williams Companies continues to operate under the assumption that it will remain independent. That also means that the company still intends to complete its proposed transaction to acquire all of the units of Williams Partners it doesn't own and bring the MLP in-house. As a result of that assumption, Armstrong said that the company was "reaffirming our dividend of $0.64 per share in third quarter of 2015, or $2.56 annualized, and also our dividend of $2.85 in 2016 with 10% to 15% annual dividend growth coming through 2020." It's guidance that would change if the company is acquired by a rival, but despite the renewed weakness in commodities, Williams is still on track to deliver robust dividend growth if it remains independent.
Williams Companies continues to operate its business as if it will remain independent. While it's open to a buyout by Energy Transfer Equity or another suitor at a much higher price, it doesn't need a buyout to deliver a compelling return to investors. That's because it has its own growth plan in place that the company believes will deliver strong growth. This puts investors in a good position because even if the company doesn't like the offers it receives, it can stick with what it believes is a really solid plan.