6 Undervalued Utilities With Strong Dividends and Upside Potential

June 28, 2017 by 247lee

With fears growing of a summer correction after a strong market run, and with many of the administration’s pro-growth initiatives looking as though they are on hold or delayed, 24/7 Wall St. wanted to identify some of the defensive utility stocks that have solid dividends and that still have upside to where the analyst community feels they should be worth.

With the average S&P 500 Index yield at just 2.37% and the average yield of the 30 Dow Jones Industrial Average stocks at 2.43%, many investors are looking for safer alternatives. Also worth noting, is that the 10-year Treasury note yield was last seen at just 2.19% and the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond was at just 2.74%. So very safe, but hardly anything for income investors to get excited about.

Here are six defensive utilities with upside to the consensus analyst target prices from firms we cover on Wall Street and Thomson Reuters, each with solid dividends. If a correction comes this summer, these may be the ones that the investor community flocks to first.

American Water Works

While it has a lower yield than some, many are expecting more dividend hikes in the coming months and years from American Water Works Co. Inc. (NYSE: AWK). It provides regulated water service in 20 states. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are the largest states, each representing 20% to 25% of revenues. American Water Enterprises is the non-regulated business and is 10% of earnings. The nonregulated business lines include:

  • Water service contracts with military bases
  • Homeowner service
  • Contract operations
  • Shale exploration and production water services in the Appalachian basin through the recently acquired Keystone.

While the shares are up almost 10% this year, the company has solid upside potential and a very defensive posture. Shareholders are paid a 2.07% dividend. The price target for the shares at both Barclays and Janney is $86, while the posted consensus price target is $84.55. The shares closed most recently at $80.21 apiece.

Edison International

This top utility continues to raise its dividend on a steady basis. Edison International (NYSE: EIX) generates electricity through hydroelectric, diesel, natural gas, gas fueled, combustion turbine, nuclear and photovoltaic sources. It supplies electricity primarily to residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and other customers, as well as public authorities through transmission and distribution networks.

Edison International remains well positioned to compete in the market place. It says that the billions it is spending on upgrades goes predominantly to its networks, and that it only owns about 15% of the generation that its customers consume. The other 85% is purchased on the open market.

The shares are up right at 10% year to date. Shareholders are paid a 2.75% dividend. RBC has a Buy rating on the stock and its price objective is $84. The consensus target price is $84.08. The stock closed most recently at $79.22.

Exelon

This top utility stock also still makes good sense now for conservative accounts. Exelon Corp. (NYSE: EXC) is one of the nation’s leading competitive energy providers, with 2014 revenues of approximately $27.4 billion. Headquartered in Chicago, Exelon does business in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. It is one of the largest competitive U.S. power generators, with approximately 32,500 megawatts of owned capacity, comprising one of the nation’s cleanest and lowest-cost power generation fleets.

The company’s Constellation business unit provides energy products and services to more than 2.5 million residential, public sector and business customers, including more than two-thirds of the Fortune 100. Exelon’s utilities deliver electricity and natural gas to more than 7.8 million customers in central Maryland, northern Illinois and southeastern Pennsylvania.

The shares have traded sideways this year and are offering a great entry point. Exelon investors receive a very solid 3.56% dividend. RBC also rates this company a Buy and has a price target on the stock of $40. The consensus target is a bit lower at $39.42. The stock closed most recently at $32.75.

FirstEnergy

This higher yielding stock also may have among the best total return potentials. FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) is a conglomerate of 10 electric utilities, including Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating, Pennsylvania Power, Toledo Edison, Jersey Central Power & Light, Metropolitan Edison and Pennsylvania Electric. FirstEnergy owns merchant generating plants totaling over approximately 18,000 megawatts of capacity.

The stock is down slightly this year, and the higher 4.82% dividend could draw investor interest. Barclays has the stock rated Buy with a $37 price target, while the consensus target is posted at $33.59. The shares closed trading most recently at $29.86.

PG&E

This is a top utility that investors can still feel super-comfortable owning now. PG&E Corp. (NYSE: PCG) is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers energy to nearly 16 million people in northern and central California. The company operates 141,215 circuit miles of electric distribution lines, 18,616 circuit miles of interconnected transmission lines, 42,141 miles of natural gas distribution pipelines and 6,438 miles of gas transportation pipelines. It operates generation facilities with energy sources such as nuclear, hydroelectric, fossil fuel-fired and photovoltaic.

PG&E announced a clean fuel rebate of $500 that started in the spring. The rebate is a bonus for using electricity as a clean transportation fuel, and eligible electric vehicle owners can receive one rebate per owned or leased electric vehicle.

Its shares are up a solid 12% this year. PG&E shareholders are paid a 3.15% dividend. The RBC price target for the stock, which is rated Buy, is $70, and the consensus number is $70.50. Shares closed trading most recently at $67.46.

Southern Company

This large cap leader makes sense for very conservative accounts. The Southern Company (NYSE: SO) has four utility subsidiaries: Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power (Florida) and Mississippi Power. Georgia and Alabama are the most significant and represent about 80% of earnings. The utility businesses comprise 35,000 megawatts of power generation and 4.4 million customers. The nonregulated arm, Southern Power, owns and operates 7,600 megawatts of gas-fired power plants with the vast majority of the output signed up under long-term power contracts.

The shares are almost totally flat for the year, and this is another company offering investors a tidy entry point. Shareholders receive a big 4.7% dividend. Barclays has a Buy rating on the shares and a $55 price target, while the consensus target is $51.22. The shares closed most recently at $49.47.

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While the days of the huge capital gains in the utility stocks may be over, the opportunity for solid upside potential and safe dividends is very much in focus now. The Treasury yield curve is flattening and that could mean a recession in a year or so. For conservative accounts, and those wary of a bloated stock market, all these companies look like a good place to put money now.