The stock market has staged an amazing comeback from its bottom in March. While the S&P 500 is still down double-digits for the year, the Nasdaq Composite is back in the green. That seems a bit too fast considering that the economy is just starting to reopen, and risks of a second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks remain high.
Because of that, I've found it harder to put money to work in recent weeks. However, there are still some stocks worth buying these days, since they're relatively immune to COVID-19 and trade at an attractive price. One of those is clean-energy producer Clearway Energy (NYSE:CWEN) (NYSE:CWEN.A). It's currently right at the top of my buy list.
Clearway Energy 101
Clearway Energy is a renewable yieldco, which means it focuses on generating renewable energy that it sells under long-term, fixed-rate contracts, and uses the stable cash flow to pay a high-yielding dividend. Clearway also operates cleaner natural gas power plants and district energy facilities, which provide heating and cooling to buildings in several major cities. It sells this energy under similar contract structures that, likewise, provide it with steady cash flow.
Similar to other renewable yieldcos, Clearway has a sponsor, Clearway Energy Group (CEG), which develops projects that Clearway can acquire. Private equity giant Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) owns CEG, which, in a sense, gives Clearway two sponsors. GIP also provides Clearway with acquisition opportunities, such as natural gas power plants it acquires via its private equity funds.
Lots to like with Clearway
Thanks to its supportive sponsors, Clearway Energy has been able to acquire several clean-energy assets over the past year. Those transactions have the company on track to generate $310 million, or $1.56 per share, of cash available for dividends (CAFD) in 2020. That's 22% above last year's level. Meanwhile, Clearway recently signed agreements with CEG to acquire three additional wind projects, which it expects to close by early next year once they all enter commercial service. It will invest $241 million into these transactions, which should generate $23 million of annual CAFD. That deal, when combined with some other internal initiatives to boost its margins, will grow Clearway's annualized CAFD up to $340 million, or $1.70 per share, a 10% increase from its 2020 outlook.
With shares of Clearway recently selling for $21 apiece, this improved outlook implies that it sells for slightly more than 12 times CAFD. That's a reasonable valuation for a company that's growing at a double-digit clip and produces such durable cash flow, since COVID-19 isn't having any effect on its financial results.
Meanwhile, that forecast suggests that Clearway's dividend, currently yielding 4%, is on rock-solid ground. At the current rate of $0.21 per share, Clearway is only paying out about 55% of its cash flow; this is low, since yieldcos typically pay out upwards of 80% of their cash flow. This percentage is on track to fall below 50% as Clearway closes those wind deals.
So Clearway expects to be able to keep growing its high-yielding dividend. The company already provided its investors with a 5% increase earlier this year.
However, it anticipates that it can give them an even bigger income boost once one of its largest customers, California electric utility PG&E (NYSE:PCG), exits bankruptcy later this summer. While PG&E has continued to honor its power contracts, Clearway's banks restricted its access to that cash, which has been piling up on its balance sheet.
Once those restrictions lift, Clearway can use that money. It intends to deploy the currently restricted existing cash pile to help finance its wind acquisitions, and future unrestricted cash flow to normalize its dividend.
Clearway should have plenty of power to continue growing its payout in the future, given its relationship with CEG. That company currently has several renewable-energy projects under construction, and many more in its development pipeline. Clearway already has the right of first offer on several projects that will start commercial service over the next few years, providing lots of growth visibility.
The complete package
Clearway Energy pays an attractive dividend powered by clean energy. It also has lots of visible growth ahead, and plenty of additional opportunities in the pipeline. On top of that, it's trading for a relatively attractive price. That makes it the complete package, in my opinion, which is why it's one stock that I'm actively buying these days.