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Williams shares fall after 1Q results, outlook

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Shares of Williams Cos. Inc. dropped Wednesday after the pipeline operator reported lower first-quarter earnings and predicted that profit in 2013 and 2014 would miss Wall Street expectations.

The shares fell $1.34, or 3.6 percent, to $35.64 in midday trading.

The company blamed the decline in first-quarter profit on sharply lower margins for natural gas liquids. Also, in the first quarter of 2012 the company booked $207 million in income from selling some of its operations in Venezuela.

Assuming higher prices for natural gas and lower prices for gas liquids, Williams forecast adjusted earnings of 73 cents per share in 2013 and $1.30 per share in 2014. Analysts expected 96 cents per share this year and $1.39 per share in 2014, according to FactSet.

CEO Alan Armstrong said that "despite the headwinds" of low natural gas liquids prices, the company projected that the dividend would grow 20 percent a year through 2015. He said the needs for North American energy infrastructure would present opportunities for the company.

Net income in the first quarter fell 62 percent to $161 million, or 23 cents per share, compared with $423 million, or 70 cents per share, a year earlier, when it recorded the gain from selling assets in Venezuela.

Adjusted income, excluding special items, was 22 cents per share.

Revenue was $1.81 billion, compared with $2.02 billion a year ago.

Analysts expected adjusted earnings of 24 cents per share on revenue of $1.96 billion.

Tulsa-based Williams owns 68 percent of Williams Partners LP, which owns or operates thousands of miles of pipelines for natural gas, gas liquids and oil.