Williams has rebounded, but has yet to recover

Tuesday, July 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(Tulsa, Oklahoma-AP) -- Petroleum analysts say the Williams Companies are making a good recovery after the energy trading industry crashed but still face challenges.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma company avoided following competitor Enron Corporation into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings by selling key assets and taking out high-interest loans.

In Alaska, the company put up for sale its North Pole refinery and chain of gas stations.

The fall in the company's fortunes led chairman, president and chief executive Steve Malcolm to refocus the company on more stable and profitable energy businesses.

That has included producing, processing and transporting natural gas.

Analyst John Olson of Sanders Morris Harris in Houston says he expects Williams to return to operating profitability this year.

But the company's debt remains high at $13-billion.

Analysts say Williams has made little progress in unloading its cash-draining and money-losing energy trading business.

Williams has sold about $8-billion in assets since December 2001, including a 6,000 mile Texas Gas pipeline and its controlling interest in profitable ammonia-shipper Williams Energy Partners.

Only the Alaska refinery, which is still for sale, remains from Williams' oil business.