Oneok Inc. (OKE:US), the Oklahoma-based operator of natural gas pipelines, said it will spin off its utility business, sending shares up the most in more than four years to lead the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index today.
The new gas distribution company, to be called One Gas Inc., will deliver the heating and power plant fuel to 2 million homes and businesses in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, Tulsa-based Oneok said in a statement today. Oneok will remain the parent of Oneok Partners LP (OKS:US), a master-limited partnership.
The spinoff will appeal to shareholders seeking higher payouts, the company said. Oneok expects to raise its dividend afterward to compete with other parents of pipeline partnerships, and said One Gas will pay a dividend competitive with local fuel distributors. The number of utility shares to be distributed will be determined by the time the spinoff is completed, which is anticipated in the first quarter.
“Shareholders will receive stock in a pure, 2 million customer strong gas utility,” Carl Kirst, Houston-based analyst for BMO Capital Markets, wrote today in a note to clients. One Gas “is not being loaded up with debt,” he said.
Oneok has traded at a discount to rival companies that control pipeline partnerships in part because of the utility business, he wrote.
Oneok increased 20 percent to $51.40 at 1:14 p.m. today in New York after earlier rising 22 percent, the biggest intraday gain since Oct. 13, 2008.
The spinoff will free excess cash flow that had been funding the utility, the company said. Oneok will reduce its debt with proceeds from a one-time cash distribution payment from One Gas, estimated at $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion.
Pierce Norton II, executive vice president, commercial for Oneok, will become chief executive officer of One Gas.
Morgan Stanley is financial adviser to Oneok for the spinoff, Spinnaker Strategic Advisory Services LLC is strategic adviser and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is legal counsel.
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