Shares of Just Energy Group Inc. (JE 11.77%) are rising on Thursday and were up 15% at 10:45 a.m. EST after the energy retailer reported its fiscal third-quarter results.
Just Energy produced $52.5 million of base EBITDA during the quarter, which was $1 million more than the year-ago showing thanks to operational improvements. That helped the company overcome a $5.8 million increase in administrative expenses associated with its international operations and new strategic initiatives. Just Energy also noted that while its total renewal rate dropped 6% versus last year due to a very competitive market, its focus was on "improving retained customers' profitability rather than pursuing low margin growth." As a result, the company remains on track to hit its fiscal 2018 base EBITDA guidance of $175 million to $190 million.
Just Energy also noted that it continued making progress with its retail expansion strategy, launching 111 new stores across 12 different retail partners in the quarter. As a result, the company had a total of 348 stores at the end of the quarter, and is on pace to hit its goal to be in 500 locations by the end of its fiscal year. Notably, the company launched operations in Japan, which was its first expansion into Asia and its third new geography of the year.
"Our strategy is beginning to deliver measurable results, and we continue to aggressively pursue additional growth opportunities while preserving the balance sheet," said co-CEO Deb Merril. Because of that, Merril said, Just Energy is "committed to maintaining our dividend, and we are confident we can deliver on our fiscal 2018 expectations while also setting the stage for prolonged, profitable growth on a global scale." Those comments seem to suggest that things are starting to look up for the company after a tough calendar 2017, when shares tumbled 22% due to concerns about its balance sheet and ability to maintain its high-yielding payout. Even so, income-seeking investors would seem to be better off focusing on safer options.