Energy Business

Ferrellgas Soars on Smaller-Than-Expected Loss

Paul Ausick

Ferrellgas Partners L.P. (NYSE: FGP) reported first-quarter fiscal 2017 results before markets opened Friday morning. The propane distributor reported a diluted loss per common unit of $0.44 on revenues of $379.54 million. In the same period a year ago, the company reported a loss of $0.79 per common unit on revenue of $649.24 million. First-quarter results also compare to consensus estimates for a loss of $0.50 per common unit and $376.33 million in revenue.

The company’s share price has dropped about $10 per common unit since it reported quarterly and fiscal year 2016 results in late September. Late last month Ferrellgas cut its quarterly distribution from $0.5125 per common unit to $0.10 in an effort to increase liquidity, reduce leverage and dress up the balance sheet. The company estimated the distribution cut would generate about $160 million in internally generated cash.

First-quarter operating income from propane sales rose more than 20% despite warmer temperatures throughout the period. Ferrellgas attributed the increase to lower operating expenses related to vehicle fuel costs.

Interim President and CEO James E. Ferrell said:

While unusually warm weather conditions – including temperatures during our first quarter that were 35% higher than normal – continued to negatively impact our propane revenue, we are taking aggressive actions to position Ferrellgas for long-term growth and profitability. … Although the termination of the Jamex contract impacted our crude oil logistics segment, we believe in the potential of this business and are taking steps to maximize profitability by increasing utilization of our assets.

We are committed to reducing debt and strengthening our balance sheet, with the goal of returning to a leverage ratio of 4.5x or below. While debt reduction is our primary objective at this time, increasing returns to our unitholders remains the top priority for Ferrellgas, and we will continue to take actions to deliver value to all stakeholders over the long term.

The company reported long-term debt of $1.97 billion, of which about $900 million was accumulated in its 2015 purchase of Bridger Logistics. In September, Ferrellgas took a nearly $630 million noncash impairment charge on the acquisition.

Common units jumped 13% on Thursday to close at $6.70 and have traded up nearly 10% in Friday’s premarket session at $7.35. The 52-week range is $5.04 to $20.85, and the consensus 12-month price target is $7.92.