ONEOK says it will face major loss if Enron collapses

Saturday, December 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ ONEOK Inc. officials say the company could lose up to $40 million if Enron Corp. collapses.

The Tulsa-based company could be hurt if Enron does not follow through on contracts for natural gas and another buyer is unable to purchase the gas from ONEOK at the same price, officials said.

Enron is on the brink of bankruptcy.

Company officials based the $40 million estimate on the Thursday closing price of natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price was $2.56 per thousand cubic feet.

``The important thing to stress is that this is a moving target,'' said Weldon Watson, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications. ``This is our exposure at this moment based on that Thursday price.''

ONEOK's biggest exposure is in its energy marketing and production business. The current exposure there is about $36 million, officials said.

Enron owes ONEOK, the parent company of Oklahoma Natural Gas Co., about $4 million for natural gas already delivered.

ONEOK was one of numerous companies that said they would be affected by the potential collapse of the energy-trading giant. Williams Co. said it could lose up to $100 million.

Meanwhile, state officials said Oklahoma's two major state pension systems will not be seriously affected by the financial problems.

The $4.6 billion Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System likely will lose $2 million because of the dramatic drop in the price of Enron's stock, said Steve Edmonds, executive director of the pension program.

The state Teachers Retirement System has 74,400 shares of Enron and will lose an estimated $1.6 million, said Tom Beavers, executive director of the pension program.

``Nobody wants to lose a dollar,'' he said. ``We don't sneeze at $1.6 million, but it's not even 1 percent.''