Questar Corp. said Monday its projected 1994 capital spending could top $235 million, a third higher than this year and an all-time record for the parent company of Mountain Fuel Supply Co.
The capital spending plan reflects Questar's optimism for its growth prospects, said R.D. Cash, chairman."We feel confident about achieving our financial and operating objectives over the next several years if we continue to deploy these large capital expenditures efficiently and fully implement our strategies," said Cash.
He cited the company's "distinctive integrated organization" as a primary reason for its success and his bullish outlook.
"Each of our primary business lines - exploration and production, interstate transmission and retail gas distribution - is identifying and developing promising growth opportunities."
Despite the capital spending plans, Cash said Questar will retain a "competitive" dividend and conservative balance sheet.
With its cash flows rising steadily over the past five years, the company has been able to maintain its long-term debt at around 40 percent of total capitalization.
Questar has increased its dividend 20 times in the past 21 years.
Including next years's spending, Questar will have spent almost $900 million for capital projects over the past five years, a period Cash terms the most aggressive growth phase in company history.
Income from continuing operations has increased at an average annual compounded rate of more than 12 percent during the past three years, growing from $51.5 million in 1989 to $73.8 million in 1992.
Cash said the 1994 capital outlays will be focus on three areas: oil and gas exploration and production (principally reserve acquisitions), expansion of underground natural gas storage operations and additions to retail gas-distribution operations as required by customer demand and growth.
He said the company's exploration and production segment is "in the hunt" for gas-reserve acquisitions up to a range of $100 million.
"While gas prices are somewhat higher, attractively priced properties still are coming into the marketplace. Combined with our successful drilling programs, prudent acquisitions will help us continue expanding our reserve base at very competitive finding costs."
Government regulators have approved an increase in the capacity of Questar's Clay Basin underground storage facility in Northern Utah, where Questar Pipeline Co. expects to spend $39 million next year increasing the reservoir's capacity from 100 billion cubic feet to 110 billion.
Cash said the Questar also is expanding the retail gas-distribution system in response to customer additions. Mountain Fuel's 3 percent customer growth rate during 1993 is almost twice the industry average.