Williams Companies has several parts, but they all add up to the delivery of energy and profits. Williams is primarily engaged in gas marketing and the gathering, storing, and the processing of natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs). It also operates refineries, ethanol plants, and terminals. The company owns 71% of publicly traded limited master partnership Williams Partners which has gas pipeline operations in the Northwest, the Rockies, the Gulf Coast, and the East. The gas pipeline unit operates three major interstate pipeline companies (Transco, Northwest, and Gulfstream).
Williams has natural gas pipeline and NGL operations in the US (the Northwest, the Rockies, the Gulf Coast, and the East) and in Canada.
While robust prices and increased demand for NGLs lifted Williams Partners' revenues by 18% in 2011, Williams' overall revenues dropped by 17%, primarily due to the spin off of its exploration and production segment. However, unburdened by unusual costs, net income recovered from a loss of $1.1 billion in 2010 (caused by major restructuring costs) to a surplus of $376 million.
To develop greater financial efficiency and a simpler business model, the company has restructured to focus on its Williams Partners business (US natural gas pipeline, and NGL production operations) and on its Canadian midstream and domestic olefins operations.
The company is eying gaining a greater market share in the US' lucrative shale plays (a prime source of high-priced NGLs used in chemical production). In 2012 Williams expanded its presence in the Marcellus Shale play, buying assets from Delphi Midstream Partners, primarily the Laser Gathering System (33 miles of gas pipeline and associated gathering facilities in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and 10 miles of gathering pipeline in southern New York).
In 2010 the company merged its Williams Pipeline Partners unit into Williams Partners. The move allowed Williams to pool its pipelines assets (including 14,600 miles of interstate natural gas pipeline and 8,500 miles of gas gathering lines), streamline its operations, and cut costs. The $12 billion restructuring established Williams Partners as a major interstate pipeline and midstream player.
In a major move to raise capital to fund its reorganization in 2011 the company spun off its exploration and production unit (which had extensive exploration and production assets in the Rockies, Northeast and the Mid-Continent) as WPX Energy in a $750 million IPO.
In 2011 Energy Transfer Equity made a bid to buy Southern Union. Williams, sensing an opportunity to expand its asset base, made a counter offer, but Energy Transfer Equity trumped its bid (pushing its offer up to $5.1 billion). – less