Williams also announced that it will merge its midstream spinoff, Williams Partners L.P. (NYSE: WPZ) with and into Access once the acquisition is completed. The surviving company would be named Williams Partners, and Williams would become a pure-play general partner holding company.
To complete its transformation to a pure-play G.P. holding company, Williams said it is speeding up the drop-down of $600 million in assets of its NGL and petchem to take place late this year or early next year.
Williams will raise its dividend from $0.425 per share to $0.56 beginning in the third quarter and is guiding future increases at approximately 15% per year from the $0.56 per share base. Annual dividend payments are expected to total $1.96 in 2014, $2.46 in 2015, $2.82 in 2016 and $3.25 in 2017, subject to approval by the company’s board of directors.
Analysts’ reactions to the announcement have been positive, with Jefferies raising its rating from Hold to Buy with a price target of $65. Credit Suisse also raised its price target to $65.
Williams’ CEO said:
The proposed merger of Williams Partners and Access Midstream Partners, if consummated, would create an industry-leading, large-scale MLP with substantial positions across the midstream business — spanning natural gas gathering and processing, natural gas transmission pipelines, and NGL and petchem services. Our positions in these businesses provide clearly identified growth for the foreseeable future.
Williams Partners is lowering its financial guidance for 2014 due to delays in the expansion and start-up of its petrochemical operations in Geismar. The company now expects distributable cash flow in the range of $2.0 billion to $2.2 billion. Williams Partners did not change its guidance for 2015 or 2016. The plant’s expansion cost is expected to increase by $65 million to $715 million.
Shares of Williams were up about 11.3% in Monday’s premarket trading to $52.50, above the current 52-week range of $31.25 to $48.00.
Common units of Access are up 2.5% at $67.00, above the 52-week range of $44.39 to $65.57.
Units of Williams Partners were up 2.3% at $54.00, also above the current 52-week range of $45.37 to $53.98.
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