FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE:FE) Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call - Final Transcript

Feb 20, 2019 • 10:00 am ET

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FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE:FE) Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call - Final Transcript

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Presentation
Operator
Operator

Greetings and welcome to the FirstEnergy Corp. Fourth Quarter 2018 Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. A brief question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Irene Prezelj, Vice President, Investor Relations for FirstEnergy Corp. Thank you. Ms. Prezelj, you may begin.

Executive
Irene M. Prezelj

Thanks, Christine. Welcome to our fourth quarter earnings call. Today we will make various forward-looking statements regarding revenues, earnings, performance, strategies, and prospects. These statements are based on current expectations and are subject to risk and uncertainties. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by such statements can be found on the investors section of our website under the earnings information link and in our SEC filings. We will also discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures. Reconciliations between GAAP and non-GAAP financial measures can be found on the FirstEnergy Investor Relations website along with the presentation, which supports today's discussion. Participants in today's call include Chuck Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer; Steve Strah, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and several other executives in the room who are available to participate in the Q&A session.

Now I'll turn the call over to Chuck.

Executive
Charles E. Jones

Thanks, Irene. Good morning, everyone. 2018 was perhaps the most pivotal year in FirstEnergy's history. Through a series of careful coordinated actions, we met our commitment to fully transform FirstEnergy into a premier high performance pure play regulated utility. I will spend just a few moments recapping the year, then move to our opportunities for 2019 and beyond. We began 2018 by announcing a $2.5 billion equity investment from several prominent investors. Among other things, this new investment enabled us to reduce our holding company debt by $1.45 billion, eliminate the need to issue additional equity outside of our employee benefit and stock purchase plans through 2021, and contribute a total of $1.25 billion to our pension plan in 2018. That investment also helped us accelerate our regulated growth and infrastructure improvement plans and for the first time ever, introduce a long-term growth rate projection for our regulated operating earnings.

In April, we reached an agreement-in-principle to address our obligations in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings of FirstEnergy Solutions and all of its subsidiaries and FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company. Our final definitive agreement was approved by the bankruptcy court in September. Reaching a fair settlement with the debtors, Unsecured Creditors Committee, and key creditor groups within months of the bankruptcy filing helped us deliver on our commitment to quickly and thoughtfully exit competitive generation allowing us to turn our attention to FirstEnergy's future as a fully regulated utility. The settlement and our improved risk profile as a utility with stable predictable earnings and cash flow cleared the way for an across the board upgrade at S&P, including an upgraded issuer credit rating at FE Corp. and a positive credit outlook with Fitch. In turn, we