Atmos Energy Corporation (NYSE:ATO) Q2 2020 Earnings Conference Call August 6, 2020 10:00 AM ET
Daniel Meziere – VP and Treasurer
Kevin Akers – President and CEO
Christopher Forsythe – SVP and CFO
Conference Call Participants
Richard Ciciarelli – Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Aga Zmigrodzka – UBS
Insoo Kim – Goldman Sachs
Ryan Levine – Citi
Charles Fishman – Morningstar
And welcome to the Atmos Energy Third Quarter 2020 Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.
It is now my pleasure to turn the call over to Dan Meziere, Vice President, Investor Relations and Treasurer. Please go ahead Dan.
Thank you, Kevin. Good morning everyone and thank you for joining us today. With me this morning are Kevin Akers, President, Chief Executive Officer; and Chris Forsythe, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.
Our earnings release and conference call slide presentation which we were referencing our prepared remarks are available at atmosenergy.com under the Investor Relations tab. Today’s presentation also includes references to non-GAAP financial measures.
You should refer to the information contained in the slide, accompanying today’s presentation for a definitional information and reconciliations of non-GAAP measures to the closest GAAP financial measures.
As we review these financial results and discuss future expectations, please keep in mind that some of our discussion might contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Securities Act and the Securities Exchange Act. Our forward-looking statements and projections could differ materially from actual results. The factors that could cause such material differences are outlined on slide 32 and are more fully described in our SEC filings.
With that, I will now turn the call over to Kevin. Kevin?
Thank you, Dan and good morning everyone. We appreciate you joining us today and your interest in Atmos Energy. I hope you and your families are safe and healthy as we continue to navigate our way through this challenge together. The safety of our employees, our customers, and the safety of our communities remain our focus as we continue to deliver safe and reliable natural gas service.
Today, over 95% of our employees continue to work remotely as we are doing our part to reduce the spread of the virus by following the CDC guidelines as well as following our safety protocols such as hand-washing, practicing social distancing, and wearing face coverings.
As I’ve said before, we were early to transition to remote work and we will be very intentional about returning to our offices. We continue listening closely to the health experts and following the data as we go about our daily operations.
As I shared last quarter, through the outstanding work of our risk management and compliance committee, our senior leadership team, and all 4,800 Atmos Energy employees, we were well prepared to transition every facet of our business to a remote work environment in mid-March. That level of preparation and agility served us well as we continued executing at the highest levels during the third fiscal quarter.
For example, our customer service agents and service technicians continued providing exceptional customer service as indicated by our customers’ rating their satisfaction with our agents and technicians at 98%.
Our strategic focus on digital build delivery and payment options is yielding benefits as the percentage of electronic bills issued as of the end of the third quarter increased to 45% and our electronic methods of payments received such as bank drafts, credit cards, and online banking increased to 76% of the payments received as of June 30th.
Through these innovative electronic bill delivery and payment channels, Atmos Energy and our customers are doing our part to conserve environmental resources. For example, on an annual basis, the use of this technology saves approximately 1,300 tons of wood, nearly 6 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents, 7 million gallons of water, and nearly 400,000 pounds of waste.
During the quarter, we deployed mobile wallet, a unique bill delivery platform, enabling customers to view and pay their bill and manage their Atmos Energy accounts from Apple Wallet or Google Pay.
I also want to highlight the great work of our safety and enterprise services and operations teams that they are doing in the area of damage prevention, especially given we are just five days away from National 8/11 Day.
This work is an integral part of our ongoing commitment to safety and our proactive measures to help raise awareness about third-party excavation damage, which is one of the greatest threats to the safety of distribution systems.
Our teams have implemented a Damage Prevention Ambassador Program. They’ve developed social media alerts and other public awareness campaigns, such as postponing non-essential digging during the COVID-19 pandemic. All these efforts support the year-to-date results of a damage rate that is less than the industry average.
Using our safety practices and protocols I mentioned earlier, we have continued executing our proven investment strategy and remain on track to meet our capital spending range of $1.85 billion to $1.95 billion.
A safely performing distribution and transmission pipeline system work that includes maintenance and compliance activities, pipe replacement, line locating and system inspections, our fiscal year-to-date consolidated capital spending grew 17% to $1.4 billion with approximately 88% of our spending being directed toward safety and reliability, all to modernize our system.
Finally, our financial position remains very strong and at the end of June our liquidity was almost $3 billion and our balance sheet continues to be very strong.
Now, I’d like to turn the call over to Chris for a financial update and I will return shortly with a few closing remarks. Chris?
Thank you, Kevin and good morning everyone. Yesterday, we reported fiscal 2020 third quarter diluted earnings per share of $0.96 compared to a $0.68 in the prior year quarter. Year-to-date we reported diluted earnings per share $4.37 compared to $3.88 in the prior year period.
Results for the quarter and year-to-date periods included a one-time non-cash income tax benefit of $21 million or $0.17 per diluted share related to a change in our state deferred tax rate resulting from legislation that was passed by the Kansas legislature in June to eliminate the assessment of state income taxes on regulated utilities operating in the state.
As a result of the change in our state deferred tax rate, we reduced our deferred tax liability by $33 million in the fiscal third quarter. We established a $12 million regulatory liability for excess deferred taxes that will be returned to Kansas customers. And we recognized the remaining $21 million as a one-time income tax benefit.
Excluding this non-recurring benefit diluted earnings per share for the third fiscal quarter was $0.79 and $4.20 year-to-date. Consolidated operating income during the nine months ended June 30th rose over 10% to $723 million. Rate increases in both our operating segments driven by increased safety and reliability spending totaled $111 million.
We also experienced a $10 million increase in distribution and operating income, primarily due to customer growth in our Mid-Tex division. During the 12 months ending June 30th, our Mid-Tex division experienced net customer growth of 1.6%. On a consolidated basis, we experienced net customer growth of 1.3% over the same period.
The impact of COVID-19 did not have a material impact in our year-to-date operating income as we were able to align our O&M spending with the decline in non-residential customer consumption we experienced during the third quarter. Through the first nine months of the fiscal year, we earned approximately 85% of our distribution revenues.
Additionally, residential revenues comprised approximately 60% of our distribution revenues during the second half of the year. These bills are at their lowest during this time.
Finally, we collect a significant portion of our revenues excluding gas costs through the base charge, which partially insulates us from volumetric risk. For most of our service territories, the base charge represents a large portion of our customer’s bill by the middle of our third fiscal quarter.
For the year-to-date period, we experienced a $7 million reduction in operating income due to lower sales and transportation volumes during the third quarter. We did not identify a meaningful change in residential consumption due to COVID.
However, we did experience a 14% decline in non-residential consumption. We also saw a $3 million decline in service order revenue primarily due to the suspension of collection activities.
Our non-residential consumption decline was concentrated in our commercial customer class, which declined 18% during the third quarter compared to the prior quarter. We experienced most of the volumetric decline in our Mid-Tex and Louisiana divisions.
During the quarter, we saw commercial consumption decline by as much as 30% compared to the two-year historical average in certain of our states by mid-May, as shelter-in-place orders in our service areas impacted their businesses.
However, since that time, we have seen a steady improvement. Through mid-July, commercial customer usage was just 11% below the two-year average over the same period.
Additionally, the experience of 12% decline on transportation volumes during the third quarter primarily due to slower economic activity in the automotive and metal sectors.
These declines in operating income were offset by a $17 million decrease in O&M expense primarily associated with employee costs for overtime, standby and other costs, lower travel and training costs, and the temporary deferral of pipeline maintenance activities.
In our pipeline and storage segment, over 80% of APT’s revenues are earned from delivery services to our Mid-Tex division and a few other LDCs under a straight fix variable rate design.
The remainder of APT’s revenues relates to its thru system business and other ancillary pipeline services. As a reminder, APT only keeps 25% of revenues earned from these activities under its rate design. During the third quarter, we experienced a net $2.5 million decrease in transportation and other revenue in this segment.
APT’s quarter-over-quarter thru system volumes declined 19% and prices declined by 30% due to reduced associated gas production in the Permian Basin. Year-to-date, transportation and other revenue decline not less than $1 million.
Slide six and seven provide additional details of period-over-period changes to operating income for each first of our segments. On the regulatory front, to-date, we have implemented a $123 million in annual operating income increases.
Additionally, we received approval for the four Texas GRIP filings that we voluntarily delayed in March for $23 million. These filings will be implemented on September 1st.
Currently, we have a $141 million in regulatory filings in progress, most of which were scheduled to be implemented during the first quarter of fiscal 2021. Details of these filings can be found in slides 19 through 29. In other regulatory matters, we have orders in five of our eight states that address the impacts of COVID-19. These orders cover more than 85% of our distribution customers and APT.
Generally, these orders allow us to defer net incremental expenses including bad debt expense and in a few of our states, certain lost revenues due to COVID-19. We are still evaluating these orders. Therefore, we did not record regulatory assets or liabilities related to COVID-19 as of June 30th.
Slide 14 summarizes these orders. As of June 30th, our balance sheet and liquidity remain strong. Our equity capitalization is 58.8%, and we finished the quarter with approximately $2.9 billion in liquidity, including $750 million in cash between our operating accounts and ATM net proceeds.
During the third quarter, we executed new forward sales arrangements for approximately 2.3 million shares, with anticipated net proceeds of $234 million. Additionally, we sell approximately 1 million shares from $100 million. Through June 30th, we have settled out 3.6 million shares worth $359 million. And as of June 30th, we had about $547 million in cash available under equity forward arrangements.
Yesterday, we reaffirmed our adjusted earnings per share guidance range of $4.58 to $4.73. We now have more clarity around how COVID has, and continues to affect our business from a customer perspective and an operational perspective. As we understand today, we now believe earnings per share will be at the upper end of the range.
For the fourth quarter, we had assumed similar non-residential consumption declines will be experienced in the third quarter as several of our states have slowed the pace of re-opening their economies.
Additionally, we expect fourth quarter O&M trend similarly to what we experienced during the third quarter. Slide 15 and 16 provide additional details around our guidance.
Thanks for your time this morning. I’ll now turn the call back over to Kevin for some closing remarks.
Thank you, Chris. Community service is woven into the fabric of Atmos Energy’s culture, we call Atmos Spirit. And our 4,800 employees take pride in fueling safe and thriving communities each and every day. During National Hospitality Week or Hospital Week, in May, we saluted our medical professionals’ heroic efforts by delivering more than 12,000 meals to healthcare heroes across our eight state service area.
In valuing our strong partnerships with local restaurant owners and chefs across our 1,400 communities, we celebrated Take-Out Tuesday, an initiative that brings support to local restaurants offering all employees the opportunity to enjoy lunch from their favorite neighborhood restaurant.
Along with these enterprise wide efforts to lift each other up during these uncertain times, we are feeling safe and thriving communities in ways both large and small by working with school districts, early childhood programs, and non-profits across our service area to improve the reading proficiency by third grade and to feed hungry children so they can learn and thrive. I’m truly inspired by the many ways our employees come together to give up their time and talent to further support those who need a helping hand.
As I said earlier, a robust risk management process has served us extremely well during this pandemic and will continue to guide us as we execute at the highest levels on all facets of our business.
On year-to-date results, we’re in line with our expectations, our balance sheet is strong and we have further enhanced our liquidity. Our focus remains the same, the health and safety of our employees, customers, and communities as we execute our proven investment strategy and continue delivering safe, reliable, affordable, and efficient natural gas to homes, businesses, and industries to fuel our energy needs now and in the future.
With that, I’ll open it up for questions.
Thank you. We’ll now be conducting a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Our first question today is coming from Richard Ciciarelli from Bank of America. Your line is now live.
Hey. Good morning, guys. Hope you’re doing well.
Good morning, Richard. How are you doing?
Doing well. Thanks for taking my question here. Just curious given some of the deterioration in volume we’ve seen on the non-residential side and obviously appreciate the confidence for the back half or the remainder of the year in 2020.
But just curious how you’re thinking of things beyond that in light of the COVID impacts and just really considering the fact that you and really all of your gas LDC peers having gotten to experience this through the more meaningful peak winter heating season?
Well, Richard, that’s a good question. With the fiscal year-end rapidly coming to a close, we’re deep in our planning cycle right now and we’re certainly evaluating what’s going on in the economies of the — in the eight states that we serve and so we were keeping a close eye on that. We’re not ready to announce yet what assumptions we’re going to put into the fiscal 2021 guidance. And as you know, we’ll roll that out here in the fall in November.
But we are taking a look at that. We’re also assessing operationally what we’re going to be doing to keep our employees safe and the community safe and we’ll have a better picture and more information to provide in November.
Got it. And just to follow-up on that a little bit if I can. Just given like the annual true-up mechanisms you have for your O&M efforts. Is there any other offsets that you could pursue into next year if the economic recovery is a bit more prolonged?
When you say offsets, I mean it’s primarily, we’ll just have to continue to see first and foremost what we can do in terms of work that can be performed and do it in a way that we can keep our employees safe and keep our communities safe, and as Kevin said at the top of the call, doing our part to minimize the spread of the virus in the community.
So, we obviously have compliance work that has to be completed on certain schedules and timelines, and we can’t let that slip but we will be evaluating things. But we do have a little bit of discretion in the event that we do need to align our O&M with any potential volumetric and revenue declines due to the pandemic.
All right. Great. Thanks a lot. That’s very helpful. That’s all I had.
Thank you. Have a good day.
Thank you. Our next question today is coming from Aga Zmigrodzka from UBS. Your line is now live.
Good morning, Aga. How are you doing?
Good. How are you?
How should we think about your equity needs for 2021? Is it fair to assume that with the updated forward equity agreements, that’ll be sufficient or should we expect a larger equity offering?
I think we’ve been pretty consistent now for the last year — 12 to 15 months that the ATM is our preferred method for raising equity. We’ve got our financing plan out there and we intend to do — execute that financing plan in a balanced fashion with those long term debt and equity. And we’ll see to use the ATM to the best of our ability to meet those equity needs for fiscal 2021 and beyond.
What has been an increase in bad debt and how quickly you can recover those costs for the mechanics that you have in place?
Well, so far, it really hasn’t materially impacted us and there’s a couple of things to keep in mind around bad debt and collections. First, in all of our service territories, moratoriums are still in place that — in most of our service territories to prohibit the disconnect or resumption of collection activities.
We then need to evaluate what the tone is from the regulatory environment. What’s the tone from the — just the community in terms of those types of activities? And once we do begin to collect or resume collection activities, one, that can be several months down the road.
And then number two, we won’t see the impact of really bad debt until well beyond the resumption of those activities because it takes a certain number of months for it to work through the process of collection before ultimately gets written off.
So, right now, where we sit here today, it hasn’t had a material impact on our business for fiscal 2020. Certainly, a watch eye and that we’re keeping an eye on for fiscal 2021.
But we think it’s going to be some time before we begin to see that — those bad debts really begin to rise up and then you have to work through the regulatory process and because we do have the opportunity first to have an annual filing mechanism.
And as I mentioned, we do have the Reg asset orders in five of our eight states, which provides us another tool to address those types of costs. I think at this point it’s probably just a little bit too soon to tell when exactly we’re going to see that rise in bad debt, and then number two when it will ultimately be reflected in rates.
Yes. Aga, this is Kevin. I’ll just follow-up a little bit on that. In addition, our customer service agents and our customer advocacy team that supports those agents have been for several months now reaching out to customers in all classes, residential, commercial and industrial, about different payment options that exist out there for them, lot of heat, local health agencies, those sort of things.
And whether those were outbound calls, letters, some folks allow us to have their email address, getting in contact with it, that way we’ve been very proactive in reaching out to customers that appear to be having a tough time paying their bill and we’re going to continue to do that as we move forward and head toward this upcoming TD season.
Thank you for those colors. I have a last question. Could you please maybe discuss a little more detail what are the components of a lower O&M? What is short in nature and you could still benefit from that in 4Q and how much of cost savings you’re expecting going forward that is more sustainable?
Sure. The type of work — go ahead, Kevin. You start.
Well, I was going to talk about the components and things that we looked at that we could defer going into the period. I’ll hand off to Chris to talk to you about the numbers specifically. But there’s such things like this right away encroachment clearing, trees, overhanging bush, those sort of things.
Clean up around GIS data record digitization, those sort of things. And where we’re ahead on certain inspections on our systems right now, those things that we can move out to a different period; not do away with, not cancel, but move to a different period.
Those are the sort of O&M things that we have shifted during the last quarter to two quarters and are currently evaluating now. What opportunities do we have maybe to pick back up some of that and what does that accounting looks like as we head into the end of this fiscal year and into next fiscal year. Chris?
Yes, I would just say, to add to that too as we are still working remotely. So as I mentioned in my prepared remarks that we are still seeing lower employee travel, entertainment costs, some of the overtime and stand by. Certainly into the third quarter we expect that to be consistent as we near the end of the fourth quarter.
And so again, it’s basically items that are certainly within our control, items that we don’t have to where there’s — it’s not a compliance deadline related where we have a little bit discretion around the timing of that. And in terms of actual dollars saved again as we think about 2021 we’ll provide a little bit more color around our O&M spending levels for 2021 in November.
Thank you. Our next question today is coming from Insoo Kim from Goldman Sachs. Your line is now live.
Thank you. A question on just demand trends that you’re seeing on a more geographic basis. I know the bulk of your exposure is in Texas, but you do have exposure to a lot of different states. Just which jurisdictions are performing from a demand perspective better than what you expected and which are a little bit more concerning?
Well, as I — really the — what we’re seeing across the board as I mentioned Mid-Tex and Louisiana in the third quarter were probably the hardest hit from a volumetric perspective. And that was in that — all-in in the 20% range, the other states range anywhere from 9% to 17%, 18%.
And as I mentioned too we have seen a steady improvement since really the middle part of May kind of when things tended — seemed to have bottomed out. So, all-in and when I talked about that 11% versus the two-year historical average most of our divisions now are kind of right in that range.
You do see a little bit of weakness still but it’s — again, it’s improving and then in Mississippi and Louisiana. But overall things continue to trend in a better way than what we were seeing in the first half of the third quarter.
Yes, Insoo, this Kevin. The other thing I’ll just add is if you go back and as we did as we’re looking at these volumes we also look at the unemployment rate as some of our jurisdictions opened up their phased re-openings and moved into the second or third tiers of those if you will. We’ve noticed a slight improvement in the unemployment rates in just about every jurisdiction from April.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics average if you look at those through the June numbers almost every one of them has shown some slight improvement. And we think that’s reflected again back in those staged re-openings.
Commercial, retail some other businesses, industrials opening back up, bringing folks back in and picking up some of the business there. So, that was a good indicator for us as well.
Great. Thanks for that color there. In terms of cost contingencies I think you spoke on it and a couple of people have asked the questions already. But given a little bit stronger than expected wins for this year, does it — all else being equal, give you a little bit more contingencies that you could utilize in 2021?
Like I said earlier, we’re still evaluating and putting together our fiscal 2021 budgets. We’ll have to obviously see what’s happening with our customer behavior particularly on the non-residential side here in the fourth quarter before we make a final determination of what — of how we a line our O&M going into 2021. So, we’ll have more color on that in November.
Got it. And finally, just on the technology side, I think you’ve mentioned things like automate to customer bill payments and whatnot. Whether it’s that or other technological advancements you are making or plan to make in on the horizon. What type of efficiencies could you realize from those type of work?
Yes, I’ll talk a little bit about that. And the more data, access to data and providing data in a sooner format, in a better format, a consumable format, more in real-time if you will, an example that is our WMR network. We’re now working with our vendor to have real-time cathodic protection pilots on our system. So, now instead of going on having manual reads on our system, we can upload those through our network and get those readings off of our pipeline and our distribution system in real-time.
Now that — again, not much from an efficiency standpoint. But it provides continuous monitoring of your system and allows you to identify where you might have a cathodic protection system down sooner rather than later. We continue to roll out our automated leak detection equipment as well.
And you heard us talk about before our LocusMap technology that we are in the final stages of rolling out to some of our crews here in the Mid-Tex division, which allows us to gather construction, material information, geo-location positions in real-time as we’re at these sites, and upload those right back into our compliance systems.
Got it. Thank you very much and stay safe.
Thank you and you as well.
Thank you. Our next question today is coming from Ryan Levine from Citi. Your line is now live.
Good morning, Ryan.
What’s the capacity of your system to handle hydrogen and is that capacity different than the RNG capacity from a constraint standpoint?
Yes, Ryan. Two separate things there. We know there’s a lot of discussion here lately about hydrogen, and particularly with some of the things that are going on in Europe right now. And I know some of the dual fuel companies are talking about projects at particular sites, like site-specific, hydrogen utilization, if you will.
So, it’s a much different work than if you think about some of the discussion of blending. That’s not yet on the near-term horizon. There are studies going on through particular groups associations.
GTI even has a group together that’s studying opportunities around hydrogen at this point. So that’s to say I think it’s early for us to think about to your question how does that fit into our current distribution system.
There’s a lot of things that need to be worked out from a material standpoint, a supply standpoint, a utilization standpoint at the customer premises. So, I think that’s further out for us. It is separate from RNG, RNG whether it comes from landfill, it’s captured through digesters.
One challenge there is the Btu content, the quality of the gas. But once you get over that hurdle, it blends right in with the rest of our stream that we’re delivering to customers.
And as we talked about before with you, we’re doing about 5 bcf to 6 bcf a year of RNG across our system that we’re moving. And we continue to look for those opportunities near our system today.
Thanks. And then to clarify some of the earlier questions. In terms of contingencies in place, to the extent that COVID impacts extend into the winter months. Am I correct in hearing that the key tools that you’re looking at are O&M cost management and potentially capital market activity or are there other opportunities that you can pursue in order to adapt to the market condition?
I think you hit it on the head. It’s just the — again, looking at the O&M, aligning that O&M with the revenues that we’re expected to get going into the next fiscal year, we’re certainly mindful of the capital markets opportunities as well.
And you can see in our 10-Q, we have layered in some hedges for future financing activities going out for a few years now to help them lock in or take advantage of some of the current interest rate environment.
So, those are a couple of opportunities as well. So, I think those are two very good ones to keep an eye on. And that’s certainly items that we here are contemplating as we finalize our fiscal 2021 plans.
On the capital market activity, given your regulatory construct, would you look to cement those plans in the coming months or could they be phased in over a broader time period? If you were to share.
I’m not sure I understand your — I’m not sure I understand your question Ryan.
Would you need to refinance that or raise equity into the calendar year-end given the statutory construct and different jurisdictions or can you be more patient if that’s an option that you wanted to pursue?
I see, yes. So, really, the financing needs of the corporation, they are outlined on the website, it’s at $5 billion to $6 billion over the — or the current five-year planning window of 2020 through 2024, obviously, we’ll update that in the fall as well. And those financing needs are really driven just by the — primarily by the cash flow needs of the core and the spending needs.
So, I think we’ll evaluate the timing and the execution of the various tools that we have available to us, most of them from a financing perspective. But we — and obviously, I mean as you can also see, we’ve layered in hedges for the fall for an anticipated debt issuance, so that one is kind of forecasted already and it’s out there for all to see.
Okay, great. Thank you.
Thank you. Our next question today is coming from Charles Fishman from Morningstar. Your line is now live.
Good morning. I had a question on slide eight, capital spending. Certainly the 17% increase is terrific. You say you’re on target. I guess, I happen to be in the Dallas area over the July 4th week and the construction along I-75 is amazing.
And I was just wondering if you could provide some color. Is your new construction connections which I believe is not part of the 88% safety and reliability, is that on target as well? Has that been impacted by COVID-19 at least with respect to your plan?
And obviously, my viewing is just a small piece of all your jurisdictions. I wonder if you can maybe provide some color on new construction in your other jurisdictions because obviously, you don’t have as much control over that as you do on the safety and reliability extent.
Right. I’ll start out with a little color on the North Texas area there as you talked about and then on some of our other jurisdictions. But going into COVID and particularly the first month, month and a half, we did see a bit of slowdown, a dip if you will, in the housing market in particular. But they quickly rebounded. We’re doing virtual tours of homes.
The inventory of available homes on the market quickly tightened up, and we’re seeing a lot of individuals, as you know, with the low interest rate moving to the new construction. So, we’ve certainly seen that pick up as things started to open back up, and we got into these stage re-openings.
We continue to see good growth in that market here in the North Texas area. I think as we said last year, we’re experiencing somewhere around 1.5 to 1.6 net customer growth on the system, particularly. Most of that’s going to be here in the Metroplex area. So, we’ve continued to see a little bit of a lull, but now a pickup in that residential market.
And then in other areas, not quite at scale, but outside of Nashville or Franklin service territory we continue to see some good residential growth there as well. And then outside of Kansas City location and Olathe, that area we do continue to see some residential growth as well, all taking advantage of — we believe as we keep a handle on and have conversations with builders, developers and realtors association trying to take advantage of this low interest rate environment.
So, as we look through — as we sit here today 2021 do you expect customer growth to still be around the 1.5%?
Yes, I think that’s a good indication here as we again talk to builders and developers. They’re continuing to develop properties. They’re continuing to have people come in. Right now we are continuing to see strong activity in that area. And –yes.
Okay. That’s all I had.
I was just going to say the other piece that’s driving it too is that same home sales. Folks that already have homes are staying in their homes for obvious reasons. And so folks that are looking to get out of the apartment environment or maybe out of an urban downtown environment are now flocking into that new home and growth market. So, it’s — that’s just another piece that’s driving some of that — some of the customer growth.
Okay, that’s all I had. Thank you.
Thank you. [Operator Instructions]
Our next question today is coming from Jeremy Tonet from JPMorgan. Your line is now live.
Hi everyone. This is actually Peter on for Jeremy. I just have a–
I have a quick — hey, how are you doing?
I have a quick question on the EPS sensitivities the update that you gave here. Is the change each quarter or at least what we have strictly related to historical demand for each customer class or other factors I should kind of think about when you give these?
Yes. So, on slide 13, we did have the EPS sensitivity that we’ve updated that for the fourth quarter. So, you can see how again on the bottom third — bottom half of page, the revenue by customer class, residential and down to the non-residential and in then sensitivities to the right.
So, that’s basically the 1% change relative in the customer volumes in the fourth quarter and how that moves for us. So, in terms of how that compares to the prior year, I mean that’s just a 1% change for each of those customer classes produces that EPS sensitivity.
Right. Okay. And so that’s for the last quarter kind of right on a standalone basis. And then just to clarify this, the one that — the sensitivity you provided at your last call, that was for just the back half or that was for on a full year basis?
That was for the back half of the fiscal year. And so we — we’ll probably will update this slide again in November to provide a better impact or what that 1% looks like on a full fiscal year basis here in November.
Okay. And then I guess just last one here. I guess looking at the sensitivities, obviously, lower for each class compared to what you shelter the back half last quarter.
But should we think about the net impact kind of being the same as we see recovery across all classes where residential still kind of offsets the same amount of I guess drag from the other classes on — like a on a relative basis kind of like what we saw in 3Q?
Well, a couple of comments there. I mean the impacts are smaller here in the fourth quarter because as I mentioned in my prepared remarks, the first half of the third quarter you’re still seeing some volumetric influence across all customer classes and now beginning at the latter half of May into June, all the way to December, we’re primarily into the base charge component only of the bill, yeah, given the summer months.
So, I think what — it remains to be seen exactly how customers are going to behave. Like I said, we have seen modest improvement since the lows have been made. That’s something we’re watching very closely and it’s — and for that reason, we don’t have — it’s hard for us to predict as we look out particularly as some of our re-openings have slowed a little bit. So, that’s why we provide the sensitivities in 13 for you to make that assessment.
Okay, great. Thanks guys. That’s it for me.
Yes. Thanks Peter.
Thank you. We reached the end of our question-and-answer session. I’d like to turn the floor back over to management for any further or closing comments.
We appreciate your interest in Atmos Energy and thank you for joining us. A recording of this call will be available for replay on our website through November 12th, 2020. Have a good day.
Source: Seeking Alpha