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Questar profits fell 42% in 2009

SALT LAKE CITY — Questar Corp. reported a 42 percent decline in profits in 2009, citing lower prices for natural gas, crude oil and natural-gas liquids.

The Salt Lake City-based parent company of Utah's largest natural-gas utility — Questar Gas Co. — on Wednesday reported net income in 2009 of $393.3 million, or $2.23 per share, compared to $683.8 million, or $3.88 per share, in 2008.

Questar net income was $150 million, or 85 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2009, up 24 percent from $121.2 million, or 69 cents per share, in the same period a year before. Wall Street's consensus expectations for the company were earnings per share of 72 cents in the fourth quarter and $2.72 for the full year.

Revenues for 2009 totaled $3 billion, down from $3.47 billion in 2008. Fourth-quarter revenues totaled $890 million, up from $878.8 million a year earlier.

"All Questar business units executed well in 2009," Keith Rattie, Questar chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. Questar E&P — which acquires, explores for, develops and produces natural gas and oil — grew production 11 percent "and grew year-end proved reserves 24 percent in 2009," he said.

Net income for Questar Gas rose 3 percent year over year, while net income for the final quarter of last year was down 2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008.

"We exited 2009 with good momentum heading into 2010, driven by strong growth from our (petroleum exploration and production subsidiaries)," Rattie added. "Ques?tar E&P generated … (earnings of) nearly $1 billion in 2009, while the rest of Questar's businesses' added over $650 million (in earnings) for the year."

The company's quarterly financials were released after markets closed Wednesday. Questar Corp. shares climbed $1.28 for the day to close at $42.66 per share. The 52-week range for company shares ranged from a low of $24.85 to a high of $46.19 during the past year.

e-mail: jlee@desnews.com