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Williams posts steep 3Q profit decline

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Oil and gas producer Williams Cos. on Thursday reported a steep decline in third-quarter profit, as its power segment swung to a steep loss.

Net income slid to $4.4 million, or a penny per share, from $98.6 million, or 19 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Excluding the effect of unfavorable charges in its power segment, as well as other charges and gains, income from continuing operations was $125.3 million, or 22 cents per share, compared with year-ago income of $49 million, or 9 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial were looking for earnings, excluding items, of 25 cents per share.

Revenue decreased to $3.08 billion from $3.38 billion a year ago. Analysts were expecting revenue of $3.61 billion.

The company said a weak performance in its exploration and power segments offset increased natural gas production and higher realized prices, along with reduced interest expenses.

Profit from exploration and production _ the company's primary business _ rose to $158.8 million from $70.1 million in the same quarter a year ago. Meanwhile, Williams' power segment posted a quarterly loss of $226.4 million, reversing a profit of $109.3 million last year, related to unfavorable long- and short-term gas contracts.

The company's gas pipeline and processing segments reported higher profit of $161.1 million and $121.1 million, respectively.

Looking ahead, Williams narrowed its full-year forecast for profit in a range of $1.38 billion to $1.53 billion from an earlier range of $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion. Income from continuing operations, excluding items, should vary from $1.55 billion to $1.7 billion, or 84 cents to 94 cents per share.

Analysts are looking for earnings excluding items of 93 cents in 2005.
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