Enron Corporation - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Enron Corporation

1400 Smith Street
Houston, Texas 77002-7369

Company Perspectives:

Enron's mission is "to become the most innovative integrated natural gas company in North America. After recognizing early on that the natural gas pipeline business was the backbone of the corporation, we concentrated on growing our existing businesses--our exploration and production, gas liquids and cogeneration operations--which best complemented and are complemented by our pipeline activities."

History of Enron Corporation

Enron Corporation is one of the largest integrated natural gas and electricity companies in the world. It markets natural gas liquids worldwide and operates one of the largest natural gas transmission systems in the world, totaling more than 36,000 miles. It is also one of the largest independent developers and producers of electricity in the world, serving both industrial and emerging markets. Enron is also a major supplier of solar and wind renewable energy worldwide, manages the largest portfolio of natural gas-related risk management contracts in the world, and is one of the world's biggest independent oil and gas exploration companies. In North America, Enron is the second biggest buyer and seller of natural gas and the largest nonregulated marketer of electricity. Enron's stated goals are to become the largest retailer of electricity and natural gas in the United States and the largest provider of both in Europe.

Company Origins

Enron began as Northern Natural Gas Company, organized in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1930 by three other companies. North American Light & Power Company and United Light & Railways Company each held a 35 percent stake in the new enterprise, while Lone Star Gas Corporation owned the remaining 30 percent. The company's founding came just a few months after the stock market crash of 1929, an inauspicious time to launch a new venture. Several aspects of the Great Depression actually worked in Northern's favor, however. Consumers initially were not enthusiastic about natural gas as a heating fuel, but its low cost led to its acceptance during tough economic times. High unemployment brought the new company a ready supply of cheap labor to build its pipeline system. In addition, the 24-inch steel pipe, which could transport six times the amount of gas carried by 12-inch cast iron pipe, had just been developed. Northern grew rapidly in the 1930s, doubling its system capacity within two years of its incorporation and bringing the first natural gas supply to the state of Minnesota.

Public Offering in the 1940s

In the 1940s there were changes in Northern's regulation and ownership. The Federal Power Commission, created as a result of the Natural Gas Act of 1938, regulated the natural gas industry's rates and expansion. In 1941 United Light & Railways sold its share of Northern to the public, and in 1942 Lone Star Gas distributed its holdings to its stockholders. North American Light & Power would hold on to its stake until 1947, when it sold its shares to underwriters who then offered the stock to the public. Northern was listed on the New York Stock Exchange that year.

In 1944 Northern acquired the gas-gathering and transmission lines of Argus Natural Gas Company. The following year, the Argus properties were consolidated into Peoples Natural Gas Company, a subsidiary of Northern. In 1952 Peoples was dissolved as a subsidiary, its operations henceforth becoming a division of the parent company. Also in 1952, the company set up another subsidiary, Northern Natural Gas Producing Company, to operate its gas leases and wells. Another subsidiary, Northern Plains Natural Gas Company, was established in 1954 and eventually would bring Canadian gas reserves to the continental United States.

Through its Peoples division, the parent company acquired a natural gas system in Dubuque, Iowa, from North Central Public Service Company in 1957. In 1964 Council Bluffs Gas Company of Iowa was acquired and merged into the Peoples division. Northern created two more subsidiaries in 1960: Northern Gas Products Company, now Enron Gas Processing Company, for the purpose of building and operating a natural gas extraction plant in Bushton, Kansas; and Northern Propane Gas Company, for retail sales of propane. Northern Natural Gas Producing Company was sold to Mobil Corporation in 1964, but the parent company continued expanding on other fronts. In 1966 it formed Hydrocarbon Transportation Inc., now Enron Liquids Pipeline Company, to own and operate a pipeline system carrying liquid fuels. Eventually, this system would bring natural gas liquids from plants in the Midwest and Rocky Mountains to upper-Midwest markets, with connections for eastern markets as well.

Growth through Acquisitions

Northern made several acquisitions in 1967: Protane Corporation, a distributor of propane gas in the eastern United States and the Caribbean; Mineral Industries Inc., a marketer of automobile antifreeze; National Poly Products Inc.; and Viking Plastics of Minnesota. Also in 1967, Northern created Northern Petrochemical Company to manufacture and market industrial and consumer chemical products. The petrochemical company acquired Monsanto Corporation's polyethylene marketing business in 1969.

Northern continued expanding during the 1970s. In February 1970 it acquired Plateau Natural Gas Company, which became part of the Peoples division. In 1971 it bought Olin Corporation's antifreeze production and marketing business. It set up UPG Inc., now Enron Oil Trading & Transportation, in 1973 to transport and market the fuels produced by Northern Gas Products. UPG eventually would handle oil and liquid gas products for other companies as well.

In 1976 Northern formed Northern Arctic Gas Company, a partner in the proposed Alaskan arctic gas pipeline, and Northern Liquid Fuels International Ltd., a supply and marketing company. Northern Border Pipeline Company, a partnership of four energy companies with Northern Plains Natural Gas as managing partner, began construction of the eastern segment of the Alaskan pipeline in 1980. This segment, stretching from Ventura, Iowa, to Monchy, Saskatchewan, was completed in 1982. About that time, it became apparent that transporting Alaskan gas to the lower 48 states would be prohibitively expensive. Nevertheless, the pipeline provided an important link between Canadian gas reserves and the continental United States. Northern changed its name to InterNorth, Inc. in 1980. That same year, while attempting to grow through acquisitions, InterNorth became involved in a takeover battle with Cooper Industries Inc. to acquire Crouse-Hinds Company, an electrical-products manufacturer. Cooper rescued Crouse-Hinds from InterNorth's hostile bid and bought Crouse-Hinds in January 1981. The takeover fight brought a flurry of lawsuits between InterNorth and Cooper. The suits were dropped after the acquisition was finalized.

While InterNorth grew through acquisitions, it also expanded from within. In 1980 it set up Northern Overthrust Pipeline Company and Northern Trailblazer Pipeline Company to participate in the Trailblazer pipeline, which runs from southeastern Nebraska to western Wyoming. Also that year, it created two exploration and production companies, Nortex Gas & Oil Company and Consolidex Gas and Oil Limited. The latter company was a Canadian operation. In 1981 InterNorth set up Northern Engineering International Company to provide professional engineering services. In 1982 it formed Northern Intrastate Pipeline Company and Northern Coal Pipeline Company as well as InterNorth International Inc., now Enron International, to oversee non-U.S. operations.

InterNorth significantly expanded its oil and gas exploration and production activity in 1983 with the purchase of Belco Petroleum Corporation for about $770 million. Belco quadrupled InterNorth's gas reserves and added greatly to its crude oil reserves. Exploration efforts focused on the United States, Canada, and Peru.

Other acquisitions of the early 1980s included the fuel trading companies P & O Falco Inc. and P & O Falco Ltd.; their operations joined with UPG--renamed UPG Falco--in 1984; and Chemplex Company, a polyethylene and adhesive manufacturer, also acquired in 1984. InterNorth had sold Northern Propane Gas in 1983.

InterNorth made an acquisition of enormous proportions in 1985, when it bid to purchase Houston Natural Gas Corporation for about $2.26 billion. The offer was received enthusiastically, and the merger created the largest gas pipeline system in the United States&mdashout 37,000 miles at the time. Houston Natural Gas brought pipelines from the Southeast and Southwest to join with InterNorth's substantial system in the Great Plains area. Valero Energy Corporation of San Antonio, Texas, sued to block the merger. InterNorth had entered into joint ventures with Valero early in 1985 to transport and sell gas to industrial users in Texas and Louisiana. Because these ventures competed with Houston Natural Gas, InterNorth withdrew from them when it agreed to the merger. Valero alleged that InterNorth had breached its fiduciary obligations, but the Valero lawsuit failed to stop the acquisition.

Although still officially named InterNorth, the merged company initially was known as HNG/InterNorth, with dual headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and Houston, Texas. In 1986 the company's name was changed to Enron Corp., and headquarters were consolidated in Houston. After some shuffling in top management, Kenneth L. Lay, HNG's chairman, emerged as chairman of the combined company. HNG/InterNorth began divesting itself of businesses that did not fit in with its long-term goals. The $400 million in assets sold off in 1985 included the Peoples division, which sold for $250 million. Also in 1985, Peru's government nationalized Enron's assets there, and Enron began negotiating for payment, taking a $218 million charge against earnings in the meantime. In 1986 Enron's chemical subsidiary was sold for $603 million. Also in 1986, Enron sold 50 percent of its interest in Citrus Corporation to Sonat Inc. for $360 million but continued to operate Citrus's pipeline system, Florida Gas Transmission Company. Citrus originally was part of Houston Natural Gas.

In 1987 Enron centralized its gas pipeline operations under Enron Gas Pipeline Operating Company. Also that year, Enron Oil & Gas Company, with responsibility for exploration and production, was formed out of previous InterNorth and HNG operations, including Nortex Oil & Gas, Belco Petroleum, HNG Oil Company, and Florida Petroleum Company. In 1989 Enron Corp. sold 16 percent of Enron Oil & Gas's common stock to the public for about $200 million. That year Enron received $162 million from its insurers for the Peruvian operations, and it continued to negotiate with the government for additional compensation.

Enron made significant moves into electrical power, in both independent production and cogeneration facilities, in the late 1980s. Cogeneration plants produce electricity and thermal energy from one source. It added major cogeneration units in Texas and New Jersey in 1988; in 1989 it signed a 15-year contract to supply natural gas to a cogeneration plant on Long Island. Also in 1989, Enron reached an agreement with Coastal Corporation that allowed Enron to increase the natural gas production from its Big Piney field in Wyoming; under the accord, Coastal agreed to extend a pipeline to the field, since the line already going to it could not handle increased volume. The same year, Enron and El Paso Natural Gas Company received regulatory approval for a joint venture, Mojave Pipeline Company. The pipeline transports natural gas for use in oil drilling.

The 1990s and Beyond

In the early 1990s, Enron appeared to be reaping the benefits of the InterNorth-Houston Natural Gas merger. Its revenues, at $16.3 billion in 1985, fell to less than $10 billion in each of the next four years but recovered to $13.1 billion in 1990. Low natural gas prices had been a major cause of the decline. Enron, however, had been able to increase its market share, from 14 percent in 1985 to 18 percent in 1990, with help from efficiencies that resulted from the integration of the two predecessor companies' operations. Enron also showed significant growth in its liquid fuels business as well as in oil and gas exploration.

Beginning with the 1990s, Enron's stated philosophy was to, "get in early, push to open markets, position ourselves to compete, compete hard when the opening comes." This philosophy was translated into two major sectors: international markets and the newly deregulated gas and electricity markets in the United States.

Beginning in 1991, Enron built its first overseas power plant in Teesside, England, which became the largest gas-fired cogeneration plant in the world with 1,875 megawatts. Subsequently, Enron built power plants in industrial and developing nations all over the world: in Italy, Turkey, Argentina, China, India, Brazil, Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and others. By 1996, earnings from these projects accounted for 25 percent of total company earnings before interest and taxes.

Enron expects that further overseas growth will come from the privatization of government-owned companies in the fields of energy, transportation, and telecommunications. In 1997, Enron became the first company to develop a privately-owned independent power plant in Poland when a subsidiary, Elektrocieplownia Nowa Sarzyna Sp., signed a 20-year power purchase contract with the Polish Power Grid Company. The contract called for Enron to build a 116 megawatt, natural gas-fired combined heat and power plant in Nowa Sarzyna.

In North America, the states were given the power to deregulate gas and electric utilities in 1994, which meant that residential customers could choose utilities in the same way that they chose their phone carriers. In 1996, Enron agreed to acquire the utility, Portland General, whose transmission lines would give the company access to California's $20-billion market, as well as access to 650,000 customers in Oregon.

In 1997, Enron Energy Services began to supply natural gas to residential customers in Toledo, Ohio, and contracted to sell wind power to Iowa residents. Through a subsidiary, Zond Corporation, the company contracted with MidAmerican Energy Company of Houston to supply 112.5 megawatts of wind-generated electricity to about 50,000 homes, the largest single purchase contract in the history of wind energy. Zond was to build the facility in northwestern Iowa, using about 150 of its Z-750 kilowatt series wind turbines, the biggest made in the United States.

Interest in industrial customers also continued, and in 1997, Enron Capital & Trade Resources contracted with Amtrak to buy electric energy at reduced rates. Amtrak functions as a wholesale purchaser of electric power, using it for its own system and reselling it to commuter lines. Amtrak planned to use the electric energy to run nearly 600 of its own trains daily in the Northeast Corridor and another 100 commuter trains on the Keystone line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Savings to the electric-powered trains were estimated to be as much as $40 million per year.

Principal Subsidiaries:Enron Gas Pipeline Group; Enron Capital & Trade Resources; Enron International; Enron Oil & Gas Company; Enron Renewable Energy Corp.

Additional Details

Further Reference

"Enron Chief Criticises U.S. Congress and World Bank," International Trade Finance, October 11, 1996, p. 8."Enron Joins West Coast Team," ENR, February 17, 1997, p. 12.Kemezis, Paul, "Why Enron Paid a Premium for Portland General," Electrical World, September 1996, pp. 57-58."O'Reilly, Brian, "The Secrets of America's Most Admired Corporations," Fortune, March 3, 1997, pp. 60-64."Power Players," Fortune, August 5, 1996, p. 94.

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