Williams will beat 4th quarter earnings expectations


Citing better than expected trading results, Williams said its fourth quarter earnings will surpass analysts' projections. The Tulsa-based company said it expects earnings per share to �substantially� exceed current First Call estimate of 17�/share. No further financial details were available from the company.

Williams said it informed the financial community because of investor concern related to publicity surrounding the California electricity market that is experiencing short supply and higher wholesale prices.

�The driver of our better-than-expected earnings performance is primarily because of higher trading results. This is due in large part to price volatility in the forward energy markets that is occurring throughout the nation,� said Keith E. Bailey, chairman and president of Williams, in a statement. Williams owns natural gas pipelines, generates electricity, and trades and markets energy products and services. It also has a communications business through its fiber optic cable network.

Last week, Standard & Poor�s warned about a liquidity crunch and possible bankruptcy for utilities owned by California-holding companies, PG&E Corp. and Edison International, that buy electricity on the wholesale market to distribute to customers. The warnings rattled investors that worried how the financial crisis of these utilities would affect the generators and large marketers and traders who do business in California.

Williams said that most of its California electric energy position has been sold into forward markets in which the state�s utilities until recently could not participate. Williams does not expect material creditworthiness issues to affect the fourth quarter results that will be released on Jan. 31.

Investors responded positively to the news sending Williams' stock up 7.6%, or $2.50/share, to $35.37/share in mid-morning composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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