I'm beginning to look at independent power producer Mirant (NYSE: MIR ) and wonder "what's next?" First the company tried to buy NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG ) ; then it announced that it would sell its international assets and launch a Dutch tender offer. Now it's looking to sell six more plants in the United States. Good or bad, at least it's not boring.
Although the company slightly missed average net profit estimates, earnings per share generally take a backseat to EBITDA for these power companies. To that end, Mirant reported that adjusted EBITDA in the second quarter rose more than 114%, though I believe that was still a bit shy of some expectations.
As part of an ongoing effort to restructure the business and its collection of operating assets, the company announced that it is looking to sell six gas-fired intermediate and peaking plants. Since these collectively represent about 3,500 megawatts of generating capacity, I think that the company could get somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 million for them. That's a pretty rough guesstimate, though, and it's possible that the increasing volume of private equity floating around might lead to better prices.
In the meantime, little has changed about Mirant since last quarter. Independent power producers like NRG, Mirant, and Dynegy (NYSE: DYN ) are all two-part plays to some degree. Part one is long natural gas -- electricity prices are typically set by natural gas prices, but the dominant fuel is generally coal (about 50% for Mirant). That picture will stay positive as long as natural gas prices keep rising ahead of coal prices. Part two is a more basic play on rising power prices -- capacity is tight in some areas (and getting tighter), which should bode well for future power prices.
Given some questionable management decisions, I can't say that Mirant is my favorite idea in independent power. By the same token, it's a sector with broadly positive fundamentals, and the stock seems undervalued -- not the worst idea I've seen today.
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Fool contributorStephen Simpsonhas no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).