UPDATE 1-Williams Cos plans to go it alone after ETE deal collapse

Mon Aug 1, 2016 6:34pm EDT
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(Adds details from CEO interview)

By Michael Erman and Mike Stone

NEW YORK Aug 1 (Reuters) - Pipeline company Williams Cos Inc on Monday laid out plans to move forward as a standalone company and invest $1.7 billion in its master limited partnership, Williams Partners, in the wake of the breakup of its more than $20 billion takeover by Energy Transfer Equity LP.

Williams' shares have fallen nearly 60 percent over the last year as the company fought unsuccessfully to force Energy Transfer Equity to close its agreed-upon purchase. Shortly following the deal's collapse in June, nearly half of Williams' board resigned after failing in an attempt to oust Chief Executive Alan Armstrong.

Representatives of two of the company's largest investors - Corvex Management and Soroban Capital Partners - were among the directors to step down. Corvex and Soroban spent years agitating for Williams to sell itself.

Armstrong said in an interview that the current wave of capital investment by industrial companies on assets that are dependent on natural gas will strongly benefit Williams over the next three or four years.

"I don't think there's anybody positioned the way Williams is right now, very narrowly focused on the concept of growing natural gas volumes," he said. "I really think we've got ourselves in a real sweet spot."

Williams on Monday posted a second-quarter loss, largely due to a one-time charge related to the upcoming sale of its Canadian operations. The company said it expects to finalize the sale this quarter, with combined proceeds of more than $1 billion.

Williams said it will slash its quarterly dividend by more than two-thirds, to 20 cents per share from 64 cents previously, in order to help pay for the reinvestment in Williams Partners. Williams previously said it would need to cut back its payouts if the Energy Transfer deal fell apart.   Continued...