August 9, 2011
Otter Tail (Nasdaq: OTTR ) is a funny little beast. If Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) is a large conglomerate built around predictable insurance revenues, then Otter Tail is a miniature conglomerate built around rock-steady electric utility services. With a proven business model like that, it's no wonder to see the stock sporting five out of five CAPS stars and landing on our list of the most-watched electric utility stocks.
The longtime Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation just reported second-quarter earnings, showing muscle in all the right places. Last year's $0.40 loss per share on continuing operations turned into a $0.16 net profit on the same basis. Revenues jumped 26% year over year.
The company has been busy refining and focusing its range of non-electric operations. The wind-power equipment segment is facing challenges but remains worth a turnaround effort -- but the heavy transport service for hauling those heavy wind towers around has gone by the wayside. And the Idaho Pacific dehydrated-potato producer was recently sold to a private-equity firm, bringing in $87 million of crisp, clean dollar bills in return for a stale potato business.
There are other "strategic realignment" moves coming, though we don't know whether Otter Tail plans to be a buyer or a seller at this point.
Backed by $41 million in operating cash flows this quarter and a solid business model, Otter Tail pays generous dividends. The current 5.8% yield is very comparable with much larger electric peers Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK ) or Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN ) .
Want to learn more about this swimming mammal? I can think of two excellent resources: