Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) is set to report its third-quarter financial results before the markets open on Thursday. The consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters call for $1.52 in EPS on $6.87 billion in revenue. In the same period of the previous year, the electric utility posted EPS of $1.40 and $6.40 billion in revenue.
This is considered by some almost as defensive as the nation’s top water utility, American Water Works. On its own, Duke is the largest utility in America. However its stock already has pulled back massively ahead of August due to Federal Reserve rate hike concerns, and after the Fed skipped over a rate hike in September and October, it would appear that the stock is now fairly priced.
Ahead of the September FOMC meeting, Argus reiterated a Buy rating on Duke, but lowered its target price to $79 from $85, based on a lower 2015 EPS forecast. The rating reflects growth in the company’s rate base from infrastructure investment, as well as the recent sale of its nonregulated generating assets in the Midwest.
Duke has solid fundamentals. The company’s rate base growth over the next four to five years is expected to be above the peer-group average, which should drive long-term earnings and cash flow growth. Additionally, Argus continues to expect annual dividend growth of 2.0% to 2.5% over the next several years. The shares offer a solid dividend yield of about 4.8%.
Other positive fundamentals include the company’s improving balance sheet, generally positive relationship with state regulators, operating efficiencies and well-managed nuclear-generating assets.
Prior to the release of Duke’s earnings report a few analysts made calls on the utility giant:
- SunTrust reiterated a Hold rating with a $76 price target.
- Citigroup initiated coverage with a Neutral rating.
- Macquarie lowered its price target to $75 from $78.
So far in 2015, Duke has underperformed the broad markets, with the stock down 10.8%. However, over the past 52 weeks, the stock is down only 8.7%.
Shares of Duke were trading at $71.87 Wednesday, with a consensus analyst price target of $78.50 and a 52-week trading range of $67.27 to $89.97.