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Oneok LP units fall on distribution estimate cut

NEW YORK (AP) -- Oneok Partners LP common units fell Tuesday after the natural gas limited partnership cut its distribution growth forecast for the next three years, citing expectations of lower sales volumes and prices of natural gas liquids.

THE SPARK: Oneok now expects an average annual distribution increase of 8 to 12 percent from 2012 to 2015, down from its previous guidance of 10 to 15 percent.

THE BIG PICTURE: Oneok, based in Tulsa Okla., gathers, processes, stores and transports natural gas. Its general partner is a subsidiary of energy company Oneok Inc.

Oneok on Tuesday posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, but said that it now expects its 2013 net income between $790 million and $870 million, down from a previous forecast of $935 million to $1.02 billion.

It also revised its three-year growth forecasts for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, saying that it now expects EBITDA to increase by an average of 15 to 20 percent annually over the next three years. The previous three-year average annual growth rate outlook was 17 to 21 percent.

THE ANALYSIS: The reduced distribution guidance prompted Credit Suisse analyst John Edwards to cut his rating for Oneok units to "Neutral" from "Outperform" and to reduce his target price by $9 to $58 per unit.

Edwards said that while the partnership has over $4 billion in fee-based projects that will be placed into service over the next three year, it's a victim of weak natural gas liquids prices.

THE UNITS: Down $2.53, or 4.5 percent, to $54.30 in afternoon trading, after falling as low as $54.01 earlier in the session. Over the past 52 weeks, the units have traded between $50.45 and $61.34.