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Williams Partners To Buy Added Stake In Gulfstream Pipeline For $330 Million

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Williams Partners L.P. (WPZ) agreed to acquire an added 25% interest in the Gulfstream interstate gas pipeline system from Williams (WMB) for $330 million, as the natural-gas company continues to simplify its structure. Williams holds a 73% limited-partner interest in Williams Partners and also possesses Canadian mid-stream and U.S. olefins assets. Although Williams has benefited from higher commodity prices and strength at Williams Partners, which holds gas-transportation and gathering assets, the company's bottom line was hit last year by restructuring and mark-to-market charges. The deal for Gulfstream, a 745-mile interstate gas pipeline system that extends from the Mobile Bay area to Florida, will bring Williams Partners' stake to 49%, while cutting Williams' direct ownership interest to 1%. Spectra Energy Corp. (SE) and its units own the other 50% interest. The deal included $297 million in cash and $33 million in Williams Partners limited-partner and general-partner units. It is expected to close next month and immediately add to Williams Partners' distributable cash flow on a per-unit basis. The firm expects the increased ownership interest to generate an added $20 million in segment profit for its gas pipeline business this year. In February, Williams said it plans to split its businesses into two separate, publicly traded companies, joining a growing list of firms suggesting their segments are worth more separately than combined. Williams plans to separate its exploration and production business from its infrastructure business via an initial public offering of up to 20% of the interest in third quarter and then spin off the rest to shareholders next year. Williams shares were off 4 cents at $31.93 in after-hours trading, while Williams Partners slipped a penny to $54.10. -By Lauren Pollock, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2356;

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