Last week, I finally put my money where my mouth is: I picked up shares of electricity giant NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE). I've been recommending the stock for a long time -- as its share price has steadily risen higher and higher -- but never actually went through with a purchase... until now.
Here's why I decided to pull the trigger and buy NextEra stock, and why you might want to do the same.
The price is going up
The market crash in March knocked down a bunch of stocks that were trading at all-time highs, and NextEra was no exception. Its per-share price had just crossed the $280 mark when -- crash! It fell more than 30%, to below $200 a share within a couple of weeks.
NextEra wasn't going to stay that low for long, of course. With everyone stuck at home in sunny Florida -- where NextEra owns electric utilities Gulf Power and Florida Power & Light, along with its combined 5.5 million customer accounts -- electricity was still in high demand, powering air conditioners, laptops for remote working, and television sets to binge-watch Netflix. Even at the height of the pandemic, NextEra only saw a single-digit percentage decline in utility sales.
That offered the perfect opportunity to pick up NextEra shares on the cheap, so why didn't I? Well, I was consistently recommending the stock, and due to blackout rules for financial writers, it was tough to find a time to legally pick up shares. So I missed out on the post-crash gains, since NextEra regained its $280 per share price by late July.
But I still think it was worth buying in September.
The company is growing up
NextEra is already one of the largest energy companies in the world by market cap; only a handful of integrated oil and gas majors are bigger. And massive companies usually don't have a lot of big growth potential. That's not the case for NextEra.
A growing population in Florida combined with the global trend of increasingly hot summers bodes well for NextEra's ability to grow its core utility business. However, NextEra's biggest growth prospects are on the other side of the energy equation: electricity generation.
NextEra's Florida customers currently use about half of NextEra's 45.5-gigawatt net generation capacity. But the rest doesn't go to waste. NextEra sells it to a diversified group of customers across the country, including businesses and other utilities. The company is investing heavily in upping its generation capabilities, with a backlog of 14.4 gigawatts of generation projects on its agenda, the highest in company history. All of those projects, incidentally, are renewable-energy projects.
Couple this organic growth with NextEra's potential to grow through acquisition -- it's rumored to have made an offer to buy fellow utility giant Duke Energy to cement its dominance of Florida's electric grid -- and you can see why this energy juggernaut looks poised to grow even bigger.
No signs of slowing up
Many large utilities offer high-yielding dividends to make up for a very slow growth rate. NextEra, on the other hand, sports a small yield of just 1.9%. But don't let that fool you. NextEra has increased its payout every year for the past 25 years, making it an official Dividend Aristocrat.
Those increases have been no small potatoes: Over the last five years, the company's dividend has increased by 81.8%. It's just that its stock price has gone up 186.2% during the same timeframe. Management expects that growth to continue, targeting dividend growth of 10% per year through 2022. That will be backed up by a 6% to 8% projected compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) over the same timeframe.
On the second-quarter earnings call, CFO Rebecca Kujawa said that despite the uncertainties of 2020, NextEra is "well positioned to deliver on [its] commitments." That seems to support management's assertion in Q1 that the company would be "disappointed" if it didn't deliver results at the high end of its guidance range.
If I'd focused on the below-$200 share price that NextEra was sporting in March, I might never have bought shares. But when the share price dipped below $280 again in September, it seemed like a good time to get in on the action.
NextEra's shares are currently about 6% off their all-time highs, and even if the overall market tumbles again, I expect this reliable and essential company to outperform the broader sector (and I might even buy more). With its focus on renewable energy, NextEra is a company I'm proud to own, and I like its prospects moving forward.