Energy is a small word that encompasses a very big list of companies, from oil drillers to electricity producers and a lot in between. If you are looking to add some exposure to this broad sector, where industry lines are increasingly being blurred, you will be able to find something that is interesting. For example, growth investors will probably like NextEra Energy (NEE -0.23%), income investors might find Kinder Morgan (KMI 1.00%) enticing, and those with a bent for turnaround stories might appreciate Helmerich & Payne's (HP -2.46%) story. Here's a quick look at each of these names.
1. How fast?
NextEra Energy is one of the largest utilities in the United States, with its Florida Power & Light operations providing a solid foundation for growth. This regulated utility has long benefited from migration to its warm and low tax region. It's not exciting, but it is a reliable and slow growing business. On top of that, NextEra Energy has layered one of the world's largest clean energy operations, which is an in-demand and fast growing business. Driven by long-term contracts, the company hopes to double its production capacity in this business by the middle of the decade.
That growth, in turn, should help NextEra reward investors with robust earnings growth in the 6% to 8% range through 2023. That's significant for a utility, but it's not the end of the story. NextEra also expects to increase the dividend 10% in 2022, which is massive for a utility. But the thing is, the company has been putting up solid numbers for years. Over the past decade and a half earnings have increased at an annualized clip of nearly 9% with dividends increasing at a slightly higher rate.
That type of consistent growth would be impressive for any company, let alone an electric utility. Integrated oil names are increasingly looking to expand into the electricity space, but if you are a dividend growth investor you might just want to just cut to the chase and invest in NextEra's powerhouse energy business instead. That said, NextEra is generally afforded a premium price, so you are likely going to be paying up for this name, a fact highlighted by its very low 2.1% dividend yield.
2. A big strong yield
If you prefer income stocks over growth stocks, then Kinder Morgan's far more generous 5.7% yield might be enticing. This company operates in the midstream sector, helping to move oil, natural gas, and the products into which they get turned around the world. The vast majority of Kinder Morgan's fee-based business is backed by long-term contracts, so there's material consistency here even when low oil prices are hitting the energy sector hard. For example, in 2020 Kinder Morgan's distributable cash flow covered its dividend by 1.9 times. That's a huge margin of safety.
Kinder Morgan tends to operate with more leverage than some of its closest peers and it cut its dividend in 2016 (after telling investors to expect a dividend increase). So there are some caveats here that might keep conservative types on the sidelines. However, dividend investors looking to maximize their income stream will be hard pressed to find a company with as strong a collection of assets in the energy sector. And while the growth outlook isn't as robust as it once was given the 2020 energy downturn, Kinder Morgan still has $1.4 billion worth of capital investment plans in its backlog to help keep the top and bottom lines growing. Meanwhile, its size and scale would give it a leg up if there is a round of industry consolidation. All in, it's a worthwhile name to examine for those focused on dividends.
3. Built to last
The last name here is Helmerich & Payne, an energy services company with heavy exposure to the onshore U.S. drilling space. That was a terrible place to be in 2020, as oil prices tumbled and U.S. drillers pulled back hard. It got so bad that the company cut its dividend by 65% after decades of annual dividend increases. But it would be a mistake to count Helmerich & Payne out.
For starters, it has one of the strongest balance sheets in the energy services industry, with a debt to equity ratio of just 0.15 times. That would be low for any company in any industry and gives Helmerich & Payne a great deal of financial leeway to deal with tough markets.
Meanwhile, it has long focused on owning and operating drill rigs that are at the leading edge of the industry. These are likely to be the types of rigs that get put to work first when drilling activity picks up again. There's no question that Helmerich & Payne has been hit hard by the oil industry downturn, but if you believe that there will eventually be a recovery, it could be a great way to play an industry turnaround given that only around 45% of its rigs are currently being put to use.
Something for everyone
The old saying "different strokes for different folks" is one that fits the investing world well. NextEra Energy, Kinder Morgan, and Helmerich & Payne bear this out, given that they are all in the broader energy sector but will interest different types of investors. NextEra is the growth story (including a fast-growing dividend), Kinder Morgan is the yield play backed by a solid business, and Helmerich & Payne's business is ripe for a recovery when U.S. oil drilling picks up again. One of these options is probably right up your alley -- the question is, which one?