It's a good thing to follow companies that actually do what they say they're going to do. Management at German utility company E.ON
E.ON will be selling this large manufacturer of industrial furnaces and measurement and control devices to a private equity group (CVC Capital Partners) for $1.8 billion. About $363 million of that price tag will include assumed debt, and the company expects to book a gain of more than $700 million on the sale.
While Ruhrgas Industries is a quality company, with about $1.7 billion in sales last year, it just doesn't fit into E.ON's plans to become more focused on its power and gas businesses. While management has made no specific commitments regarding this cash, I would expect them to use the opportunity to shore up the balance sheet and/or pursue more acquisitions in the power/gas space.
Of course, there still remains the matter of E.ON's stake in Degussa AG. The good news is that Degussa is the largest specialty chemical company in the world, and times are pretty good now for specialty chemicals. The bad news is that E.ON's stake is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 billion, and there aren't a lot of companies that can pony up that sort of price tag -- especially if (as I'd assume) E.ON is more interested in getting cash than stock. What's more, a German coal company (RAG) owns the majority of Degussa, and it could well have a big say in how any sale would proceed.
I've liked E.ON for a while now -- and I still do. The valuation is low, the dividend is good, and the company has what I believe to be a tremendous opportunity to expand into Eastern Europe. If there is a downside, it's that utility stocks, as a group, have been on a bit of a run -- a situation that could lead to some selling pressure when the chronically attention-deficient-momentum crowd moves on to the next new-new thing.
But investors focused on owning quality companies for the long haul shouldn't care about that. For them, I'd strongly suggest taking a look at this apparently undervalued German utility.
For more on E.ON and other utilities:
- A Cold Winter Warms Up E.ON
- An E.ON of Power
- Investors Juiced About Scottish Power
- A Healthier Glow for Nuclear Power?
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).