NiSource Inc. (NYSE:NI) Q4 2017 Earnings Conference Call - Final Transcript

Feb 20, 2018 • 09:00 am ET

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NiSource Inc. (NYSE:NI) Q4 2017 Earnings Conference Call - Final Transcript

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Presentation
Operator
operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the NiSource Fourth Quarter 2017 Earnings Conference Call. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session and instructions will follow at that time. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference call is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Randy Hulen, Vice President of Investor Relations. Please proceed.

Executive
Randy Hulen

Thank you, Andrew, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to our quarterly investor call. Joining me this morning are Joe Hamrock, Chief Executive Officer; and Donald Brown, Chief Financial Officer. The purpose of today's call is to review NiSource's financial performance for the fourth quarter and full year of 2017 as well as provide an update on our business operations and growth drivers. We'll then open the call up to your questions. During this call, we will be referring to our supplemental earnings slides. These slides are available on nisource.com.

(Forward-Looking Cautionary Statements)

With all that out of the way, the call is now yours, Joe.

Executive
Joseph Hamrock

Thanks, Randy, and good morning, everyone and thanks for joining us. 2017 was the year of solid execution across all facets of our business plan with industry leading employee safety performance, improved customer satisfaction across all NiSource utilities, record infrastructure investments, increased customer growth, more recognition as the best place to work and sustained earnings per share and dividend growth for our investors.

Let's look at slide three of our supplemental deck and highlight some of our significant achievements in 2017. We delivered non-GAAP net operating earnings per share of $1.21 compared to $1.09 in 2016. This was slightly above our guidance range for 2017. We invested a record $1.7 billion in our utility infrastructure in 2017, part of our more than $30 billion of identified long-term investment opportunities. This investment included replacing 377 miles of priority natural gas pipeline, which drove continued reductions in leaks and methane emissions. We also replaced 68 miles of underground electric cable and about 1,300 electric poles, improving electric service reliability for our customers in Indiana.

We achieved industry top-decile performance in our core employee safety metrics, and I'm proud to say that 2017 was our safest year ever. Customer satisfaction scores improved across all NiSource utilities. J.D. Power and Associates recognized Columbia Gas of Virginia as one of the nation's top gas-only brands and NIPSCO as one of the most improved electric brands, and we added nearly 28,000 new customers with growth driven by increased conversions to gas from other fuels in a healthy housing market.

We successfully completed key regulatory initiatives with approvals of gas base rate case settlements in Maryland and Virginia and our power generation environmental investment plan in Indiana. We refinanced nearly $1 billion in long-term debt at more favorable rates, which will result in significant interest expense savings over the next several years. We established aggressive environmental targets supported by our business strategy, including a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005