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Williams Swings To 4Q Loss; Williams Partners' Profit Up

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Williams Cos. (WMB) swung to a fourth-quarter loss on acquisition-related charges, while midstream asset-holder Williams Partners LP's (WPZ) fourth-quarter earnings improved, mostly owing to strong margins on natural-gas liquids. Williams Cos. raised its 2012 and 2013 guidance to reflect an acquisition, among other items. For 2012, Williams raised the top end of its per-share earnings forecast by a nickel and now expects $1.15 to $1.60. The company increased its capital expenditure view to $3.4 billion to $3.8 billion from $2.525 billion to $2.925 billion. For 2013, the company raised its per-share earnings estimate by 10 cents to a range of $1.30 to $1.80. The company also raised its 2013 capital spending estimate to $2.1 billion to $2.7 billion, from $1.975 billion to $2.575 billion. The results come as rising natural-gas production heightens demand for pipelines that can move the fuel to market. Williams and other energy companies have been turning their focus to their core businesses in any effort to drive profits. In Williams's case that involves providing infrastructure to bring natural gas from growing North American energy fields to market. Williams last year opted against an initial public offering of its exploration and production business, instead opting for a spinoff of a public company, named WPX Energy Inc. (WPX), which was completed early this year. WPX plans to report its year-end financial results Thursday. Williams reported a loss of $444 million, or 74 cents a share, from a year earlier profit of $174 million, or 29 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding write-downs of its former exploration and production business, early debt-retirement expenses and other items, earnings from continuing operations rose to 36 cents from 30 cents. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters most recently projected earnings of 40 cents. The company doesn't provide revenue figures in its press release detailing quarterly results. Williams Partners' fourth-quarter profit rose 37%, mostly on strong margins for natural-gas liquids. The company reported earnings of $391 million, or $1.05 a unit, up from $286 million, or 76 cents a unit, a year earlier. Williams shares and Williams Partners common units closed Wednesday at $29.30 and $61.75, respectively. Neither were active in after-hours trading. -By Tess Stynes, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2481;

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