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Build to Order

Engineers and constructors adapt to serve an industry in transition.
From gas pipelines to PV arrays, the nation’s contractors are seeing growth in utility infrastructure. Fortnightly talks with executives at engineering and construction firms to learn what kinds of projects are moving forward, where they’re located, and what lies over the horizon.

Last Call

Conditions are ideal for utility financing—but not forever. Although interest rates remain low, policy changes weigh on capital structures.

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Figure 1 - 10-Year Bonds
Figure 2 - 30-Year Bonds
Figure 3 - Utility Bond Tenors
Figure 4 - Utility & Power Ratings Snapshot
Rising interest rates and unknown dividend tax policies could be a headwind for utility stocks. –Brian Tate, Wells Fargo Securities
Utilities have a  significant amount of capex planned in the near term, and bonus depreciation is not a funding strategy. –David Nastro, Morgan Stanley
There’s good reason to believe there will be a lot of M&A activity around contracted renewable assets in 2013. –Frank Napolitano, RBC Capital Markets
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Pay It Forward
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One way that some utilities have been getting ahead of market changes is by issuing equity to pre-fund costs they expect to incur later. This generally takes two forms: equity forward contracts, and mandatory convertible offerings. Examples include Pepco Holdings, which sold about $350 million in shares on a forward basis in March, and PPL, which sold about $270 million in April. Also, NextEra Energy issued $600 million in three-year, mandatory convertible bonds on May 1, and another $650 million in September.

Both approaches carry a premium, but they allow utilities to capture today’s high stock prices in a forward sale. And some issuers have found banks hungry enough to participate in equity deals that they’ll take a substantial haircut for the opportunity. (See “BofA loses $12m on bought convert,” IFR 1932, May 2012.)

However, terms likely will normalize as soon as the current confluence of forces drives utilities back into the equity markets in earnest.–MTB

Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. Email him at burr@pur.com.

Utilities are enjoying some of the best financing terms anybody’s ever seen. Is the party winding down?

The Fortnightly 40 Best Energy Companies

(September 2012) Our annual financial ranking shows some remarkable shifts among the industry’s shareholder value leaders. Despite flat demand and low commodity prices, investor-owned utilities are investing heavily in capital assets. Investment discipline and operational excellence distinguish leaders on the path to financial performance.
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The <i>Fortnightly 40</i> Best Energy Companies
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Behind the Rankings
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Our annual survey of power and gas company performance relies on a modified DuPont model, based on its 89 year-old namesake approach for calculating shareholder value in asset-intensive industries. In 2008 we tweaked the model—which originally was developed in 1919 by a finance executive at E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.—to measure growth on a long-term, sustainable basis (See sidebar “F40 Model Characteristics”).

The Fortnightly 40 model combines several common measures of financial performance—profitability, dividend yield, cash flow, return on equity (ROE) and return on assets (ROA)—together with a sustainable growth-rate calculation, to produce an overall picture of a company’s value and long-term prospects. To avoid the pitfalls of short-term fluctuations, the model evaluates four years of results for each company. (This represents a change from 2008 and previous F40 rankings, which considered three years of financial results.)

The universe for the ranking—which this year numbers 82 companies—includes publicly traded, U.S.-based companies with major assets in energy production, transportation and retail delivery, and positive shareholder equity value for the past four years. Pure-play mining and exploration & production companies are excluded, but a few pure-play merchant power generation companies are included in the sample.–MTB

Credits: The Fortnightly 40 model was developed in 2006 by former Fortnightly Executive Editor Richard Stavros and Jean Reaves Rollins, managing partner of the C Three Group in Atlanta.

F40 Model Characteristics

Time Frame: 4-year average

 

Sample: 80 largest U.S.-based investor-owned power and gas companies, with assets in power generation or electricity and gas transmission and distribution.

Components:

1. Profitability= Margin = Income from Continuing Operations/Total Revenues.

2. Dividend Yield= Annual Declared Dividends/Year-End Stock Price.

3. Free Cash Flow= Operating Cash Flow from Continuing Operations – Capital Expenditures.

4. DuPont ROE Five-Ratio Model:

a. Earnings after taxes (EAT) = Income from Continuing Operations after Taxes;

b. Earnings before taxes (EBT) = Income from Continuing Operations + Income Taxes;

c. Earnings before interest and taxes = Income from Continuing Operations before Income Taxes and Interest;

d. Revenues = Total Revenues;

e. Assets = Total Assets; and

f. Equity = Total Common Shareholders Equity.

5. DuPont ROE= (EAT/EBT)×(EBT/EBIT)×(EBIT/Revenues)×(Revenues/Assets)×(Assets/Equity).

6. DuPont ROA= (EAT/Revenue)×(Revenue/Assets)

7. Sustainable Growth= DuPont ROE×(1–Dividend Payout Ratio).

8. Fortnightly Index9. Companies excluded from the FY2011 survey due to M&A activity: Allegheny Energy, DPL, and Nicor.

Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. He acknowledges the editorial contributions of the C Three Group and Accenture.

A challenging year brings a change in the rankings.

RTO Tango

Utilities in the Midwest ISO want greater access to sell into PJM’s lucrative market. But that might require a virtual merger of the two RTOs — a move rejected seven years ago as too costly, and perhaps still impractical today.
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Commission Watch
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Bruce W. Radford is publisher of Public Utilities Fortnightly.

PJM and MISO ran from the altar once before. Now there’s talk of a shotgun wedding.