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NW Natural Reports First Quarter 2014 Results

PORTLAND, OR -- (Marketwired) -- 05/02/14 -- Northwest Natural Gas Company (NYSE: NWN)

  • Consolidated net income was $37.9 million for the first quarter of 2014 or $1.40 per share, compared to net income of $37.6 million and $1.40 per share for the same period in 2013.
  • Customer growth rate increased to 1.3% at March 31, 2014, compared to 1.1% at March 31, 2013.
  • Utility operations set a new daily sendout record of 9.0 million therms on Feb. 6, 2014.
  • Operating cash flows increased $114 million for the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 reflecting receipt of environmental insurance settlement proceeds of $91 million.

Northwest Natural Gas Company, dba NW Natural (NYSE: NWN), reported consolidated net income of $37.9 million for the first quarter of 2014 or $1.40 per share, compared to net income of $37.6 million, also $1.40 per share, for the same period in 2013.

"We are continuing to see customer growth increase on a year-over-year basis and our company is executing well on many fronts, from guiding the system through a record send-out event in February to achieving a solid insurance settlement on our environmental claims," said Gregg Kantor, President and Chief Executive Officer.

Utility Results
For both the three months ended March 31, 2014 and 2013, the utility segment provided net income of $36 million. Results reflected an increase in utility margin primarily due to continued customer growth and increased revenues from our gas reserve and other investments, offset by losses from gas cost incentive sharing in Oregon, an increase in operations and maintenance expense, and a slightly higher Oregon income tax rate.

Customer growth. NW Natural's customer growth rate for the trailing 12-month period ended March 31, 2014 was 1.3%, with the Company serving approximately 698,000 customers, compared to a growth rate of 1.1% for the same period in 2013. The Company added about 9,200 new customers during the last 12 months, compared to 7,400 customers added a year ago.

Utility Volume and Margin.

                                      Three Months Ended
Dollars and therms in thousands      3/31/2014  3/31/2013  Change  % Change
----------------------------------- ---------- ---------- -------- --------
Gas sales and transportation
 deliveries                            406,217    400,190    6,027        2%
Utility margin                      $  130,294 $  127,300 $  2,994        2%

The 2% increase in deliveries for the first quarter of 2014 compared to 2013 was mainly due to customer growth from residential and commercial volumes and added load during our February cold weather event. Weather overall for the quarter was 1% warmer than a year ago but 2% colder than average. The $3.0 million increase in utility margin was primarily due to an increase of $5.4 million from a combination of customer growth and rate-base return on our gas reserve and other tracked-in investments, partially offset by $2.4 million of comparative losses from gas cost incentive sharing mechanism as a result of higher spot gas prices and higher volumes.

Cold Weather Operations. The Company's utility gas distribution system performed well during the cold weather, including an early February 2014 event when NW Natural set a new daily sendout record of 9.0 million therms, with an average temperature of 21 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the previous record set in 2004.

Environmental Insurance Settlements. In February 2014, NW Natural settled with defendant insurance companies in the Company's environmental insurance recovery litigation, which sought insurance recovery for past and future environmental remediation expenses. The Company received $91 million of settlement payments during the first quarter of 2014, with an additional $11 million expected in the second quarter of 2014. These payments will bring total insurance proceeds received to $150 million.

Gas Reserves. In March 2014, the Company amended the original gas reserve agreement with Encana in order to facilitate Encana's proposed sale of its interests in the Jonah field. Under the amendment, the Company ended the drilling program with Encana, but increased its assigned ownership interests in certain sections of the Jonah field. The Company's investment to-date of $178 million will continue to earn a rate of return and provide long-term gas price protection for utility customers. Although the Company retains the right to drill additional wells, we have not determined at this time whether we will seek to do so. Recovery of drilling costs through customer rates for these additional wells would require regulatory approval.

Gas Storage Results
The gas storage segment net income results were flat with last year at $1.6 million for the first quarters of 2014 and 2013 reflecting slightly lower operating revenues offset by a decrease in other expenses.

Consolidated Operations and Maintenance Expense
Operations and maintenance expense increased $1.6 million or 5% for the first three months of 2014 compared to the same period for 2013. The increase was largely due to higher bad debt expense and higher system maintenance and safety program costs at the utility. The change in bad debt expense accounts for $1.0 million of the overall expense increase, which primarily reflects an adjustment to our provision balance in last year's first quarter. Utility bad debt expense as a percent of revenues was 0.2% for the trailing 12 months ended March 31, 2014. Excluding the increase in bad debt, operations and maintenance expense was $0.6 million or 2% higher for the first three months of 2014 compared to the same period last year.

Consolidated Income Tax Rate
The increase in income tax expense for the three months ended March 31, 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 was primarily due to an increase in pre-tax earnings and a tax charge of $0.6 million as a result of a slightly higher Oregon state effective tax rate.

Cash Flows
Cash provided by operations for the first three months of 2014 was $220.1 million, compared to $106.1 million for the same period in 2013. The variance largely reflects the receipt of $91 million of environmental settlement recoveries during the first quarter of 2014 as well as positive working capital changes due to accounts receivable and inventory changes.

Earnings Guidance for 2014
The Company reaffirmed earnings guidance to be in the range of $2.15 to $2.35 per share for 2014. The Company's 2014 earnings guidance assumes a continued economic recovery, customer growth from our utility segment, average weather conditions, no significant changes in prevailing legislative and regulatory policies or outcomes, and resolution of the environmental cost recovery mechanism during 2014.

Dividend Declaration
The board of directors of NW Natural declared a quarterly dividend of 46.0 cents a share on the Company's common stock. The dividends will be payable on May 15, 2014 to shareholders of record on April 30, 2014. Currently, the Company's indicated annual dividend rate is $1.84 per share.

Presentation of Results
In addition to presenting results of operations and earnings amounts in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), NW Natural has expressed certain measures in this press release on an equivalent cents-per-share basis, which are non-GAAP financial measures. These amounts reflect factors that directly impact the Company's earnings. In calculating these financial disclosures, we allocate income tax expense based on the effective tax rate, where applicable. These non-GAAP financial measures should not be used to the exclusion of GAAP financial measures. NW Natural believes that these non-GAAP financial measures provide useful information to the reader by removing the effects of variances in GAAP reported results of operations that we believe are not indicative of fundamental changes in our financial condition or results of operations.

Conference Call Arrangements
As previously reported, NW Natural will conduct a conference call and webcast starting at 8 a.m. Pacific Time (11 a.m. Eastern Time) on May 2, 2014 to review the Company's financial and operating results for the three months ended March 31, 2014.

To hear the conference call live, please dial 1-888-317-6016 within the United States and 1-855-669-9657 from Canada. International callers can dial 1-412-317-6016. To access the conference replay, please call 1-877-344-7529 and enter the conference identification pass code (10044120). To hear the replay from international locations, please dial 1-412-317-0088.

To hear the conference by webcast, log on to NW Natural's corporate website at www.nwnatural.com.

Forward-Looking Statements
This report, and other presentations made by NW Natural from time to time, may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements can be identified by words such as "anticipates," "intends," "plans," "seeks," "believes," "estimates," "expects" and similar references to future periods. Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding the following: plans, objectives, goals, strategies, future events, investments, hedge efficacy, gas reserves and their financial value and benefit, customer growth, weather, commodity and other costs, customer rates or rate recovery, timing or receipt of litigation settlement proceeds, financial positions, debt redemption, revenues and earnings, dividends, performance, timing or effects of future regulatory proceedings or future regulatory approvals, effects of regulatory mechanisms, including, but not limited to, SRRM, contracting levels or pricing, and other statements that are other than statements of historical facts.

Forward-looking statements are based on our current expectations and assumptions regarding our business, the economy and other future conditions. Because forward-looking statements relate to the future, they are subject to inherent uncertainties, risks and changes in circumstances that are difficult to predict. Our actual results may differ materially from those contemplated by the forward-looking statements. We caution you therefore against relying on any of these forward-looking statements. They are neither statements of historical fact nor guarantees or assurances of future performance. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements are discussed by reference to the factors described in Part I, Item 1A "Risk Factors", and Part II, Item 7 and Item 7A "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" and "Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosure about Market Risk" in the Company's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and in Part I, Items 2 and 3 "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" and "Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk", and Part II, Item 1A, "Risk Factors", in the Company's quarterly reports filed thereafter.

All forward-looking statements made in this report and all subsequent forward-looking statements, whether written or oral and whether made by or on behalf of the Company, are expressly qualified by these cautionary statements. Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date on which such statement is made, and we undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise, except as may be required by law. New factors emerge from time to time and it is not possible for the Company to predict all such factors, nor can it assess the impact of each such factor or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements.

About NW Natural
NW Natural (NYSE: NWN) is headquartered in Portland, Ore., and provides natural gas service to about 698,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers through 14,000 miles of mains and service lines in western Oregon and southwestern Washington. It is the largest independent natural gas utility in the Pacific Northwest with $2.8 billion in total assets. NW Natural and its subsidiaries currently own and operate underground gas storage facilities with storage capacity of approximately 31 Bcf in Oregon and California. Additional information is available at www.nwnatural.com.

                        NORTHWEST NATURAL GAS COMPANY
                        Comparative Income Statements
                         (Consolidated - Unaudited)

                                                Three Months Ended
In thousands, except per share amounts  03/31/14  03/31/13  Change % Change
-------------------------------------- --------- --------- ------- --------
Income from operations                 $  75,028 $  74,206 $   822        1%
Net Income                                37,884    37,639     245        1

Diluted average shares of common stock
 outstanding                              27,126    26,973     153        1
Diluted earnings per share of common
 stock                                      1.40      1.40      --       --

                                               Twelve Months Ended
In thousands, except per share amounts  03/31/14  03/31/13  Change % Change
-------------------------------------- --------- --------- ------- --------
Income from operations                 $ 143,568 $ 137,720 $ 5,848        4%
Net income                                60,783    56,134   4,649        8

Diluted average shares of common stock
 outstanding                              27,051    26,916     135        1
Diluted earnings per share of common
 stock                                      2.25      2.09    0.16        8

Consolidated Balance Sheets (Unaudited)          March 31,      March 31,
In thousands                                        2014           2013
---------------------------------------------- -------------  -------------
Current assets:
  Cash and cash equivalents                    $      17,929  $       8,337
  Accounts receivable                                 87,264         84,346
  Accrued unbilled revenue                            33,515         29,633
  Allowance for uncollectible accounts                (2,235)        (2,116)
  Regulatory assets                                   27,834         39,001
  Derivative instruments                              15,846          8,200
  Inventories                                         33,469         52,004
  Gas reserves                                        21,990         14,286
  Income taxes receivable                                 --          2,033
  Deferred tax assets                                  4,915             --
  Other current taxes                                 13,595         12,441
                                               -------------  -------------
  Total current assets                               254,122        248,165
                                               -------------  -------------
Non-current assets:
  Property, plant, and equipment                   2,939,760      2,808,673
  Less: Accumulated depreciation                     868,257        824,561
  Total property, plant, and equipment, net        2,071,503      1,984,112
  Gas reserves                                       134,894        100,169
  Regulatory assets                                  285,046        384,453
  Derivative instruments                               1,078          2,836
  Other investments                                   67,288         68,029
  Restricted cash                                      4,000          4,000
  Other non-current assets                            12,453         14,735
                                               -------------  -------------
    Total non-current assets                       2,576,262      2,558,334
                                               -------------  -------------
    Total assets                               $   2,830,384  $   2,806,499
                                               =============  =============
Liabilities and equity:
Current liabilities:
  Short-term debt                              $      32,600  $     130,750
  Current maturities of long-term debt                80,000             --
  Accounts payable                                    89,201         77,007
  Taxes accrued                                       34,146         10,262
  Interest accrued                                    11,144         10,952
  Regulatory liabilities                              37,686         28,239
  Derivative instruments                               1,191          3,450
  Other current liabilities                           38,069         41,445
                                               -------------  -------------
    Total current liabilities                        324,037        302,105
                                               -------------  -------------
Long-term debt                                       661,700        691,700
                                               -------------  -------------
Deferred credits and other non-current
  Deferred tax liabilities                           489,108        467,360
  Regulatory liabilities                             308,858        293,135
  Pension and other postretirement benefit
   liabilities                                       147,733        215,808
  Derivative instruments                                  96            642
  Other non-current liabilities                      119,376         79,112
                                               -------------  -------------
    Total deferred credits and other non-
     current liabilities                           1,065,171      1,056,057
                                               -------------  -------------
  Common stock                                       366,560        357,957
  Retained earnings                                  419,109        407,738
  Accumulated other comprehensive loss                (6,193)        (9,058)
                                               -------------  -------------
    Total equity                                     779,476        756,637
                                               -------------  -------------
    Total liabilities and equity               $   2,830,384  $   2,806,499
                                               =============  =============

NORTHWEST NATURAL GAS COMPANY                           Three Months Ended
Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows (Unaudited)            March 31,
In thousands                                              2014       2013
------------------------------------------------------ ---------  ---------
Operating activities:
  Net income                                           $  37,884  $  37,639
  Adjustments to reconcile net income to cash provided
   by operations:
    Depreciation and amortization                         19,589     18,807
    Regulatory amortization of gas reserves                2,981      2,381
    Deferred tax liabilities, net                            205     25,797
    Non-cash expenses related to qualified defined
     benefit pension plans                                 1,278      1,476
    Contributions to qualified defined benefit pension
     plans                                                (2,800)    (1,400)
    Deferred environmental recoveries, net of
     (expenditures)                                       83,252     (4,482)
    Other                                                    603       (545)
    Changes in assets and liabilities:
      Receivables                                         23,216      5,281
      Inventories                                         27,200     15,598
      Taxes accrued                                       26,824      1,193
      Accounts payable                                    (1,671)   (13,781)
      Interest accrued                                     4,041      4,999
      Deferred gas costs                                 (14,049)     1,966
      Other, net                                          11,579     11,189
                                                       ---------  ---------
    Cash provided by operating activities                220,132    106,118
                                                       ---------  ---------
Investing activities:
  Capital expenditures                                   (25,588)   (22,674)
  Utility gas reserves                                   (19,681)   (12,257)
  Other                                                     (191)    (1,335)
                                                       ---------  ---------
    Cash used in investing activities                    (45,460)   (36,266)
                                                       ---------  ---------
Financing activities:
  Common stock issued, net                                 1,400      1,115
  Change in short-term debt                             (155,600)   (59,500)
  Cash dividend payments on common stock                 (12,456)   (12,248)
  Other                                                      442        195
                                                       ---------  ---------
    Cash used in financing activities                   (166,214)   (70,438)
                                                       ---------  ---------
Increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents           8,458       (586)
Cash and cash equivalents, beginning of period             9,471      8,923
                                                       ---------  ---------
Cash and cash equivalents, end of period               $  17,929  $   8,337
                                                       =========  =========

------------------------------------------------------ ---------  ---------
Supplemental disclosure of cash flow information:
  Interest paid                                        $   7,502  $   6,128
  Income taxes paid                                           --         --
------------------------------------------------------ ---------  ---------

                     Financial Highlights (Unaudited)
                           First Quarter - 2014

In thousands,
 except per
 customer,     Three Months Ended             Twelve Months Ended
 and degree         March 31,                      March 31,
 day data        2014      2013    Change      2014        2013      Change
-------------- --------  --------           ----------  ----------
 revenues      $293,386  $277,861       6%  $  774,043  $  698,829       11%

  Cost of gas   155,201   142,359       9      386,140     327,939       18
   maintenance   35,386    33,757       5      138,242     128,802        7
   taxes          8,182     8,732      (6)      29,406      30,494       (4)
                 19,589    18,807       4       76,687      73,874        4
               --------  --------           ----------  ----------
   expenses     218,358   203,655       7      630,475     561,109       12
               --------  --------           ----------  ----------
Income from
 operations      75,028    74,206       1      143,568     137,720        4
Other income
 and expense,
 net              1,383       520     166        5,532       3,207       72
 expense, net    11,542    11,127       4       45,587      43,093        6
               --------  --------           ----------  ----------
Income before
 income taxes    64,869    63,599       2      103,513      97,834        6
Income tax
 expense         26,985    25,960       4       42,730      41,700        2
               --------  --------           ----------  ----------
Net income     $ 37,884  $ 37,639       1   $   60,783  $   56,134        8
               ========  ========           ==========  ==========

Common shares
   diluted for
   period        27,126    26,973               27,051      26,916
  End of
   period        27,132    26,948               27,132      26,948

Per share
   per share   $   1.40  $   1.40           $     2.25  $     2.09
   per share
   of common
   stock          0.460     0.455                 1.84        1.80
  Book value
   per share,
   end of
   period         28.73     28.08                28.73       28.08
   price, end
   of period      44.01     43.82                44.01       43.82

 end of
  Common stock
   equity          50.2%     47.9%                50.2%       47.9%
   debt            42.6      43.8                 42.6        43.8
   amounts due
   in one
   year)            7.2       8.3                  7.2         8.3
               --------  --------           ----------  ----------
  Total           100.0%    100.0%               100.0%      100.0%

Customers, end
 of period      698,372   689,199     1.3%     698,372     689,199      1.3%
   sales        274,156   268,664              677,398     630,390
   sales and
                132,061   131,526              475,060     473,410
               --------  --------           ----------  ----------
Total utility
 volumes sold
 and delivered  406,217   400,190            1,152,458   1,103,800
   sales       $270,002  $256,366           $  686,886  $  611,689
   sales and
   ion           21,512    19,025               71,367      66,734
   revenues       1,477     1,529                4,002       6,029
   taxes          7,496     7,261               19,237      17,836
               --------  --------           ----------  ----------
Total utility
 revenues       285,495   269,659              743,018     666,616
  Less: Cost
   of gas       155,201   142,359              386,140     327,939
               --------  --------           ----------  ----------
Utility margin $130,294  $127,300           $  356,878  $  338,677
               ========  ========           ==========  ==========

Degree days:
  Average (25-
   average)       1,855     1,855                4,240       4,248
  Actual          1,890     1,904      (1)%      4,365       4,102        6%
Percent colder
 (warmer) than
 weather              2%        3%                   3%         (3)%

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