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Posted on  

February 21, 2003

Williams Reaches Pact To Sell Ethanol Business

TULSA, Okla. -- Williams Cos. (WMB) signed a definitive agreement to sell its interest in Williams Bio-Energy L.L.C. for about $75 million to a new company formed by Morgan Stanley Capital Partners, the private equity business of Morgan Stanley (MWD).

Williams said in a press release Thursday that the deal is expected to close in the second quarter, subject to certain conditions. However, the company recorded a pretax charge on the transaction of about $51 million in the fourth quarter of 2002. Williams on Thursday reported recurring earnings of 19 cents a diluted share for the fourth quarter.

The company said Williams Bio-Energy owns and operates an ethanol production plant in Pekin, Ill.; holds a 78.4% stake in another plant in Aurora, Neb.; and has several agreements to market ethanol from third-party plants. The Pekin and Aurora plants produce about 135 million gallons of ethanol a year.

Williams Cos. said the deal is part of its ongoing efforts to raise cash, reduce working capital requirements and refocus the company around natural gas.

Williams said the ethanol operations employ about 240 workers. The company acquired the Pekin plant in 1995.

Banc of America Securities LLC was Williams' financial adviser on the transaction.
In a separate press release, Williams Cos.' Northwest Pipeline Corp. unit said it is planning to offer $150 million of senior notes due 2010 to certain institutional investors. Northwest intends to use the proceeds for general corporate purposes, including capital expenditures.

In addition to reporting fourth-quarter results, Williams on Thursday issued guidance for 2003 and said it plans to sell an additional $2.5 billion in assets and continue to reduce its staff.

Williams Cos.' NYSE-listed shares recently traded at $3.20, up 30 cents, or 10.3%, on composite volume of 11,000 shares, compared with average daily volume of 5.2 million shares. The shares reached a 52-week high of $24.50 on March 21, 2002.

Williams discovers, produces, gathers, processes and transports natural gas.

Company Web sites: http://www.williams.com

-Tom Rojas; Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-5400


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