Dominion (NYSE:D) reported Q2 earnings last week, pushing down its top line and missing on its bottom line. But there are two aspects of Dominion's business that defy quarterly numbers, and you need to weigh each in turn to know whether or not Dominion's a dynamite dividend stock. Let's take a look at the latest.
On the top line, Dominion's Q2 revenue rolled in at $3.0 billion, a 3.4% drop from 2012's second quarter. But while sales slumped, the real worry for investors came from the utility's bottom line.
Although quarterly earnings clocked in slightly above Q2 2012, the utility's $0.62 adjusted EPS fell $0.03 short of analyst estimates. After missing the mark during its first quarter, this most recent report marks another disappointing quarter.
Looking back further for some perspective, Dominion has seen TTM sales taper off 17% in the last five years, while adjusted EPS has fallen a whopping 86.5%.
It's more than a numbers game
In the same five-year period, however, Dominion stock has headed 40% higher. Shares are up 16% so far for 2013, so the company has to be doing something right... right?
First up: natural gas. Dominion relies on natural gas for 17% of its production capacity and just received approval for a new $1.3 billion, 1,358 MW plant, but the fuel has deeper roots in the utility's fundamentals.
One of the company's steadiest subsidiaries has been its transmission business. This last quarter's gas transmission growth exceeded expectations, and the company continues to expand its lines and processing centers around the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.
Dominion isn't alone in cashing in on this latest transmission trend. NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) and Spectra Energy (NYSE:SE) are teaming up for a $3 billion joint-venture partnership to bring Florida its third major gas pipeline, a move that both companies believe will provide steady "toll booth" earnings in the years to come.
But where Dominion goes one step further in its natural gas notions is in its LNG export aspirations. The company is now second in line for Department of Energy approval, and it expects commercial operation by late 2017. If natural gas remains cost competitive, LNG exports could mean major growth opportunity for this utility.
The second reason for Dominion's continued market success is its dividend. The utility currently offers a 3.7% annual yield and has kept its distribution growing right alongside share prices.
A solid company doesn't have to grow its dividend, but it's certainly nice for income investors to receive a quarterly piece of profit pie. When Atlantic Power (NYSE:EXC) cut its dividend 66% earlier this year, the move came with a reality check (and 60% share price plummet) for dividend investors infatuated with the utility's 10.3% yield. Dominion declared its 342nd consecutive quarterly dividend earlier this week – a well-weathered statistic in the world of dividend stocks.
Will Dominion dominate?
An investment in Dominion is an investment in the future of natural gas – not just in the United States, but in the world. If you can swallow the risk, there's huge upside for a company building out some of the most important infrastructure to date for this relatively new fuel. But beware, buyer: No amount of regulated electricity distribution will save this stock if natural gas' future takes a regulatory or market-induced turn for the worse.