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Questar says quarterly earnings may be higher than estimates

Questar Corp. announced Friday that its earnings could exceed analysts' initial estimates for 2001.

Questar said in a prepared statement its first-quarter earnings could be up to 20 percent higher than the First Call consensus estimate of 67 cents per diluted share. The company attributed its projected performance to higher gas prices, flat natural gas production and $1 million in pre-tax earnings from the sale of assets.

The company also reported a good probability that earnings for the year could meet or exceed analysts' estimates, barring radical gas-price drops or other unexpected events. Questar's Market Resources subsidiary is expected to lead the way, with a projected 10 percent estimated earnings increase.

In addition to increased projected earnings, Questar announced that its pipeline subsidiary would likely proceed this year with two major pipeline construction projects. The $80 million, 75-mile Main Line 104 will carry gas from central Utah to the Wasatch Front, whereas the 700-mile Southern Trails pipeline will carry gas from the Four Corners region to Long Beach, Calif. Projected spending for the Southern Trails pipeline in 2001 is $45 million, the company reported.

Friday's announcement followed on the heels of two rate increases for Utah customers. The increases — one in October, the other in January — totalled $230 million for the company.

January's increase of $167 million, or $17 per month to the typical homeowner, was the largest ever sought by the company.