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Preliminary Fourth Quarter and Financial Year 2014 Results

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Feb. 24, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --

Highlights

  • Golar LNG Partners LP reports net income attributable to unit holders of $36.7 million and operating income of $63.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2014.
  • Generated distributable cash flow of $48.3 million for the fourth quarter with a coverage ratio of 1.29.
  • Strong operational performance with 100% utilization for the fleet.
  • Entered into an agreement to acquire the FSRU Golar Eskimo for $390 million from Golar LNG Limited. Purchase was subsequently completed on January 20, 2015.
  • Declared a 3% increase in distribution to $0.5625 per unit for the fourth quarter.

Financial Results Overview

Golar LNG Partners L.P. ("Golar Partners" or the "Partnership") reports net income attributable to unit holders of $36.7 million and operating income of $63.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2014 ("the fourth quarter"), as compared to net income attributable to unit holders of $66.9 million and operating income of $65.4 million for the third quarter of 2014 ("the third quarter") and net income attributable to unit holders of $47.6 million and operating income of $54.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2013.

The $8.5 million improvement in 2014 fourth quarter operating income over the same period in 2013 primarily reflects the addition of the FSRU Golar Igloo to the fleet during the intervening period. This floating storage and regasification unit ("FSRU"), acquired on March 28, 2014, added approximately $10.2 million to the fourth quarter 2014 operating income. Included in this additional $10.2 million operating income from the Golar Igloo is $4.7 million of net revenue in respect of the 1-month extension to the 2014 regasification season which would normally end in November of each calendar year.

A decrease in revenue net of voyage expenses from $102.0 million in the third quarter to $101.4 million in the fourth quarter partly relates to lower recognised revenue in respect of the Golar Mazo in the fourth quarter. The Golar Mazo charterer pays the operating element of the charter hire rate, which for the Golar Mazo includes drydocking, on a pass through basis. In the third quarter, there was an acceleration of the recognition of drydock related revenue as the vessel was drydocked earlier than expected. In the fourth quarter, Golar Mazo revenue related to the operating element is lower due to lower operating costs. Deterioration in the value of the Brazilian Real during the fourth quarter also negatively impacted the Brazilian Real denominated operating cost component of Golar Spirit and Golar Winter FSRU revenues.

Vessel operating expenses at $14.5 million were in line with the prior quarter cost of $14.3 million. Administration expenses at $1.5 million were also in line with the prior quarter.

Net interest expense at $11.0 million for the fourth quarter was, as expected, also in line with the third quarter charge of $11.1 million. No new swaps were entered into during the quarter and no existing swaps matured. As at December 31, 2014, the Partnership had undrawn credit facilities of $30 million.

Other financial items for the fourth quarter were a loss of $8.1 million compared to a gain of $0.1 million in the third quarter. This included non-cash mark-to-market valuation losses on interest rate swaps of $5.0 million in the fourth quarter as a result of a decrease in 5-year and 10-year interest swap rates of 15bps and 35bps respectively. This compared to a $4.2 million gain in the third quarter.

Tax expense at $4.7 million normalised during the fourth quarter following the substantial $15.1 million tax credit recorded in the third quarter. This credit reflected the recognition of a deferred tax asset that will be used over time. Approximately $2.3 million of the $4.7 million fourth quarter charge was usage of this deferred tax asset with the $2.4 million balance representing the underlying cash expense. This underlying tax cost is within the expected range.

The Partnership's Distributable Cash Flow1 for the fourth quarter was $48.3 million as compared to $53.2 million in the third quarter and the coverage ratio was 1.29 as compared to 1.47 for the third quarter. Whilst this represents a decline in coverage, the elevated third quarter coverage ratio is predominantly attributable to the tax credit noted above.

Acquisitions

In December 2014, Golar Partners announced that it had entered into an agreement to acquire the ownership interests in the companies that will own and operate the Golar Eskimo, an FSRU, from Golar LNG Limited ("Golar") for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $390.0 million. The acquisition was subsequently completed on January 20, 2015. The Partnership financed the purchase price with cash on hand, the proceeds of a $220.0 million loan from Golar and the assumption of outstanding bank debt in respect of the Golar Eskimo on the closing date of the acquisition of $162.8 million.

The Golar Eskimo was built by Korean shipyard Samsung Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. and was delivered in December 2014 and is currently undergoing some minor modifications required for her contract. The Partnership expects the Golar Eskimo to commence her service under a ten-year time charter (the "Golar Eskimo Time Charter") with the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan ("Jordan") in the second quarter of 2015. The charterer has the option to terminate the Golar Eskimo Time Charter after five years upon payment of a specified early termination fee. The Partnership has entered into an agreement with Golar pursuant to which Golar will pay to the Partnership an aggregate amount of $22.0 million in six equal monthly installments starting in January 2015 and ending in June 2015 for the right to use the FSRU. In return the Partnership will remit to Golar any hire payments actually received with respect to the vessel during this period and, at Golar's request, charter the vessel to a third party prior to the earlier of the commencement of hire payments from Jordan under the Golar Eskimo Time Charter and June 30, 2015.

Additionally, the acquisition agreement for the Golar Eskimo provides that, in the event improved terms for the Partnership under the Golar Eskimo Charter are negotiated with Jordan after the date of the acquisition agreement and prior to June 30, 2015, the Partnership will pay Golar for the fair value of the improved terms. The fair value of any improved terms (e.g., an increased hire rate or longer term) must be approved by Golar and the Partnership's conflicts committee. The conflicts committee and Golar may retain an outside financial advisor to determine the fair value of such improved terms. Any determination of fair value by such financial advisor will be binding upon Golar and the Partnership.

The Partnership estimates that the Golar Eskimo acquisition will generate annual contracted revenues, net of voyage expenses, operating expenses and taxes, ("Annual Contracted Revenues") of approximately $45 million to $47 million with respect to the first five years of service under the Golar Eskimo Time Charter. The Partnership expects such Annual Contracted Revenues to decrease to approximately $41 million to $43 million with respect to the second five-year period under the Golar Eskimo Time Charter. However, the Partnership may not realize these levels of estimated annual revenues from the acquisition of the Golar Eskimo.

Corporate and other matters

On January 27, 2015, Golar Partners declared a distribution for the fourth quarter of $0.5625 per unit. This represents a $0.015 or an approximate 3% per unit increase from the third quarter 2014 distribution. The increase relates to the Board's approval of an earlier than anticipated commencement of the distribution increase related to the acquisition of the Golar Eskimo. At the time of the Golar Eskimo acquisition, the Partnership's management declared its intention to recommend to the Board an increase in the Partnership's quarterly cash distribution of between $0.0275 and $0.0325 (or an annualized increase of between $0.11 and $0.13) as a result of the Golar Eskimo acquisition. The balance of this recommended increase will be considered by the Board for the first quarter 2015. Any such further distribution increase would be conditioned upon, among other things, the commencement of the Golar Eskimo's operations, the approval of such increase by the Board and the absence of any material adverse developments or potentially attractive opportunities that would make such an increase inadvisable.

The fourth quarter dividend was paid on February 13, 2015 on total units of 62,870,335.

Golar Partners announces that with effect from today Mr. Hans Petter Aas and Mr. Bart Veldhuizen will leave the Board. Mr. Aas and Mr. Veldhuizen have been Board members of Golar Partners from its infancy as a publicly listed Limited Partnership since March 2011 and September 2011 respectively. They have been instrumental in the growth of the Partnership from its initial 4 vessel fleet to its current 10 vessels and the Board would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their significant contribution over this period and wish them well for the future.

To fill the vacancies The Board is pleased to announce that it has appointed Mr. Andrew Whalley and Mr. Alf Thorkildsen. Mr. Thorkildsen will also serve on the Partnership's conflicts committee.

Mr. Thorkildsen is currently a senior partner with Hitecvision who he joined in 2013, from the position as Chief Executive Officer of Seadrill. During his tenure, Seadrill grew to become the world's largest driller by market capitalisation and enterprise value. Mr. Thorkildsen joined Seadrill in 2006 as CFO. Prior to this, he was the CFO of Smedvig ASA, a leading Norwegian drilling company, which was acquired by Seadrill in 2006. Alf C. Thorkildsen started his career in 1980 in Larsen and Hagen Shipping and worked thereafter for 20 years in Shell in numerous senior positions.

Mr. Whalley is a Bermudian lawyer called to the Bar in 1995. He has experience in aviation and shipping law, as well as general corporate matters. He is currently of Counsel to Alexanders, a Bermuda law firm and is also an independent consultant providing legal and corporate secretarial services. Mr. Whalley is a Director and Co-Founder of Provenance Information Assurance Limited, a company involved in the development of software for the legalisation of documents.

As previously announced Golar has appointed Mr. Doug Arnell to the Board to fill a casual vacancy.

Operational Review

Golar Partners fleet again performed well during the quarter with 100% utilization and ongoing control over operating costs underlying a strong operating earnings result. No vessels were drydocked during the quarter. The Golar Freeze and the Golar Grand are expected to drydock in the second quarter of 2015 and there are currently no further anticipated drydocks for 2015.

Financing and Liquidity

As of December 31, 2014, the Partnership had cash and cash equivalents of $99.0 million and undrawn revolving credit facilities of $30 million. Total debt and capital lease obligations net of restricted cash was $1,031.1 million as of December 31, 2014.

Based on the above debt amount and annualized2 fourth quarter 2014 adjusted EBITDA3, Golar Partners continues to maintain a strong balance sheet with a debt to adjusted EBITDA multiple of 3.0 times.

During the quarter, the Partnership accepted an offer from the incumbent lenders to extend the December 2014 maturing Golar Maria facility for up to 12 months on terms largely consistent with the existing facility. This $79.5 million debt is reported under current portion of long-term debt. The Partnership has continued to monitor the Senior Secured Term Loan market with a view to refinancing existing debt, including the $220 million loan from Golar related to the Golar Eskimo. Negative sentiment toward companies in the energy sector has resulted in sub optimal market conditions and the Partnership has decided to wait before considering launching a Term Loan or other debt capital markets refinancing. The Partnership will however continue to monitor the US debt capital markets and in the meantime is discussing with its commercial bank lenders indicative offers to refinance its long-term debt that matures in 2015, which totals $143 million.

As of December 31, 2014, Golar Partners had interest rate swaps with a notional outstanding value of approximately $1,046.3 million (including swaps with a notional value of $227.2 million in connection with the Partnership's bonds but excluding $100 million of forward starting swaps) representing approximately 101% of total debt and capital lease obligations, net of restricted cash. The average fixed interest rate of swaps related to bank debt is approximately 2.06% with average maturity of approximately 3.1 years as of December 31, 2014.

As of December 31, 2014, the Partnership had outstanding bank debt of $858.1 million with average margins, in addition to LIBOR or fixed swap rates, of approximately 2.42%. In addition, the Partnership has Norwegian Krone (NOK) bonds of $174.5 million with a fixed rate of 6.485%. The Partnership has a currency swap to hedge the NOK exposure in this bond. As the US dollar has appreciated against the NOK the value of the bonds in USD terms has fallen whilst the swap liability has grown. The total swap liability as at December 31, 2014, which also includes an interest rate swap element, was $56.6 million.

Golar Partners had another strong operating quarter with 100% utilization and a healthy distributable cash flow coverage ratio at 1.29. The fleet is expected to maintain its high level of utilization during the first quarter of 2015. However, the first quarter of 2015 and earnings moving forward will be negatively impacted by a reduced hire rate for the Golar Grand. The vessel has completed its charter with BG Group and as they have not exercised their extension option, the vessel will be chartered to Golar from mid-February at a rate that represents an approximate 25% loss of daily revenue to Golar Partners. Additionally the Golar Igloo will not earn its day rate during January and February, in accordance with the contract, as a result of its shut down for the winter season.

The Golar Freeze and the Golar Grand are expected to drydock in the second quarter of 2015 and there are currently no further anticipated drydocks for 2015.

Following the acquisition of the Golar Eskimo, Golar Partners has a total order backlog of $2.7 billion with an average remaining contract term of 6.0 years, as at December 31, 2014, including the Golar Eskimo.

As a result of the early adoption of part of the distribution increase related to the Golar Eskimo acquisition, Golar Partners distributions have grown by approximately 7.7% for the full year 2014. In 2015, as a function of the acquisition of the Golar Eskimo and management's recommendation to the Board for a further distribution increase, distribution growth for 2015 is expected to be at least 3%4.

Beyond this there are good possibilities of further FSRU and LNG carrier acquisition opportunities from Golar over the next 24 months given Golar's large newbuild LNG carrier fleet and in particular its as yet uncontracted newbuild FSRU the Golar Tundra.

Looking further forward, the Board is excited about the potential acquisition of floating liquefaction assets from Golar, which will likely be high margin and long contract duration assets. This growth potential underpins the Board's confidence in the Partnership's ability to continue to increase its earnings and distributions over time.

February 24, 2015

Golar LNG Partners L.P.

Hamilton, Bermuda.

Questions should be directed to:

C/o Golar Management Ltd - +44 207 063 7900

Brian Tienzo or Graham Robjohns

1Distributable cash flow is a non-GAAP financial measure used by investors to measure the performance of master limited partnerships. Please see Appendix A for a reconciliation to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure.

2Annualized means the figure for the quarter multiplied by 4.

3Adjusted EBITDA: Earnings before interest, other financial items, taxes, non-controlling interest, depreciation and amortization. Adjusted EBITDA is a non-GAAP financial measure used by investors to measure our performance. Please see Appendix A for a reconciliation to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure.

4Any such increase in distributions will be subject to board approval and the absence of any material adverse developments in the business of the Partnership that would make such an increase inadvisable.

Preliminary Fourth Quarter and Financial Year 2014 Results http://hugin.info/147317/R/1897007/673152.pdf

HUG#1897007

Source:Golar LNG Partners L.P.