January 21, 2016 / 5:23 PM / 4 years ago

Kinder Morgan surges on prospect of higher dividend, buyback

Richard Kinder, Executive Chairman Kinder Morgan, speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Daniel Kramer

(Reuters) - Shares of U.S. pipeline company Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI.N) shot up on Thursday as investors welcomed the company’s plans to cut debt, reduce spending and potentially increase its dividend or buy back shares.

Kinder Morgan shares surged as much as 20 percent to $14.45 in morning trading on Thursday, a day after the company reported a fourth-quarter adjusted profit that beat some analysts’ expectations.

Up to Wednesday’s close, Kinder Morgan’s shares had halved since Dec. 8 when the company cut its dividend by 75 percent.

“We can deliver the balance sheet, internally fund our growth capital needs and/or return cash to our shareholders through either increasing the dividend and/or buying back shares,” Kinder Morgan Executive Chairman Rich Kinder said on a post-earnings call on Wednesday.

The company cut its 2016 capital budget to $3.3 billion from $4.2 billion on Wednesday, and said it does not expect to access capital markets to fund growth projects in 2016.

“Given the (somewhat) alleviated concerns over the balance sheet, minimal need for external capital and excess cash flow that could be used to deliver or buy in shares, much of the dire uncertainty has been removed from this name,” analysts at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey wrote in a note.

Once resilient in the face of falling oil prices, Kinder Morgan spooked investors when it cut its dividend for the first time since going public in 2011.

The company’s underlying business was “intact”, Tudor Pickering & Co analyst Brandon Blossman said. Kinder Morgan did not have a “very volatile portfolio of assets from an earnings profile perspective,” he said

(This story corrects paragraph 4 to say Rich Kinder is Kinder Morgan’s executive chairman, not chief executive)

Additional reporting by Anet Joseline Pinto and Vishaka George in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian

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