U.S. operations boost these Canadian utilities


Emera Inc. LISTEN:  

EMERA INC. $52 (Toronto symbol EMA; Income-Growth Payer Portfolio, Utilities sector; Shares outstanding: 235.8 million; Market cap: $12.3 billion; Dividend yield: 4.5%; Dividend Sustainability Rating: Highest; www.emera.com) owns 100% of Nova Scotia Power, that province’s main electricity supplier. It also owns and invests in power plants and gas pipelines in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Those include the company’s July 2016 purchase of Teco Energy for $13.9 billion. That firm supplies electricity and natural gas to customers in Tampa Bay, Florida, and New Mexico.

Starting with the November 2018 payment, Emera raised its quarterly dividend by 4.0%, to $0.5875 a share from $0.565. The new annual rate of $2.35 yields a high 4.5%.

In the quarter ended March 31, 2019, Emera’s revenues rose 0.6%, to $1.82 billion from $1.81 billion a year earlier. Higher revenues at Nova Scotia Power and its New Mexico operations offset lower revenues in Florida.

If you exclude unusual items, earnings in the quarter increased 10.9%, to $224.0 million from $202.0 million a year earlier. Per-share earnings rose at a slower rate of 9.2%, to $0.95 from $0.87, on more shares outstanding.

 

Emera continues to sell assets to help pay down the debt it took on as part of the Teco acquisition.

In March 2019, the company agreed to sell Emera Maine, its regulated power transmission and distribution business, for $959 million U.S. If you include debt, the deal is worth $1.3 billion U.S. In addition, it recently completed the sale of three natural gas-fired electricity generating facilities in New England to Revere Power for $590 million U.S.

Thanks to the cash from asset sales, Emera has cut its long-term debt by 9.1% since the end of 2018. As of March 31, 2019, that debt was $13.0 billion—still a high 1.1 times the company’s market cap. However, Emera gets 90% of its earnings from regulated utilities. Predictable cash flows from those businesses help it pay down its loans.

The company is now spending $1.7 billion U.S. on new electrical plants in Florida. The additional cash flow from those projects will help Emera with its plan to raise its dividend by 4% to 5% each year through 2021.

Emera will probably earn $2.80 a share in 2019. The stock trades at a reasonable 18.6 times that estimate.

Emera is a buy.

ENBRIDGE INC. $50 (Toronto symbol ENB; Income-Growth Dividend Payer Portfolio, Utilities sector; Shares outstanding: 2.0 billion; Market cap: $100.0 billion; Dividend yield: 5.9%; Dividend Sustainability Rating: Highest; www.enbridge.com) operates pipelines that pump oil and natural gas from Western Canada to eastern Canada and the U.S. It also distributes gas to consumers in Ontario, Quebec, and New York State.

With the March 2019 payment, the company increased its quarterly dividend by 10.0%. Enbridge investors now receive $0.738 a share instead of $0.671. The new annual rate of $2.952 yields a high 5.9%. The company also plans to raise its dividend by another 10% in 2020.

In February 2017, Enbridge paid $37 billion in stock for Spectra Energy. That firm operates crude oil and natural gas pipelines in the U.S. and Canada. As a result of that purchase, the company’s long-term debt was $60.7 billion as of March 31, 2019. That’s a high 61% of Enbridge’s market cap. To help pay down its debt, it will sell $7.8 billion worth of its less-important operations.

In the quarter ended March 31, 2019, Enbridge’s revenues rose 1.0%, to $12.9 billion from $12.7 billion a year earlier. If you exclude unusual items, earnings increased 19.3%, to $1.6 billion from $1.4 billion. Per-share earnings fell by 1.2%, to $0.81 from $0.82, on more shares outstanding.

The company will likely earn $2.59 a share in 2019, and the stock trades at 19.3 times that estimate.

Enbridge is still a hold.

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