Just Energy Group (NYSE: JE ) announced today that it will sell its National Home Services business to Reliance Comfort Limited Partnership for $505 million, and will also reduce its dividend to further an attempt to balance its debt-ridden books.
National Home Services is a water heater and HVAC business, and Toronto-based Reliance runs similar businesses across Canada, with approximately 1.6 million total customers. For Just Energy's part, the sale is a chance to focus on its strategic business (the competitive retail of electricity and natural gas), as well as work down some of its debt.
The priority for management is the reduction of debt levels, noted co-CEO's Deb Merril and James Lewis in today's press release. "We examined all of our non-core assets and concluded that the sale of NHS [National Home Services] at this price would allow us to pay down approximately $400 million of our outstanding debt, substantially reducing our leverage. We are intent on further reducing our debt in future periods through continued growth of our core energy business."
Just Energy's total debt as of the end of March was $982 million, $930 million of which was long-term debt.
But despite the positive spin on the sale, Just Energy will no longer enjoy NHS's earnings, which were expected to account for 25% of the Group's total 2015 Base EBITDA. In the same press release, Just Energy announced it will cut its dividend from Canadian $0.84 per year to Canadian $0.50, a 40.5% haircut.
"This transaction will allow us to substantially reduce our debt and strengthen our balance sheet," said Executive Chair Rebecca MacDonald in today's press release. "Our lower dividend reflects a sound payout ratio on our revised cash flow guidance. These steps are consistent with the conservative strategy being pursued by management. The retailing of deregulated energy continues to show high growth across North America. Just Energy is a leader in the industry and has grown its business every year since our formation."