Earnings season is upon us, and Consolidated Edison's (NYSE:ED) latest report beat on both top and bottom lines. But despite the success story, its stock is down 2%. Here are three takeaways that point to a profitable investment opportunity for you today.
1. Free cash flow and dividends
Consolidated Edison, one of our nation's largest utilities, relies on cash flow to keep its company moving because it makes capital expenditures and dividend distributions possible. For the overall corporation, net cash flow from operating activities clocked in at $224 million for Q1 2014, well above 2013's first quarter dip into the red at -$83 million.
Cash flow at its regulated utility Consolidated Edison Company of New York (CECONY) fell from $350 million last year to just $11 million this most recent quarter. Although net income expanded, dips in accounts receivables, more taxes, and a cut from deferred charges all took slices out of Con Ed's cash cow. With CECONY pulling in 85% of Con Ed's overall operating revenues, you don't want to see cash flow cut this much for more than a quarter.
But overall metrics point to continued dividend distributions in the quarters and years to come. Consolidated Edison takes pride in its steadily increasing payouts, and its below average stock price growth in recent years puts its current yield at an attractive 4.5%.
2. Regulation, regulation, regulation
Consolidated Edison is undergoing major renovations, and the ability to pass on those capital expenditure costs to consumers is key to this company remaining competitive. Its aging New York infrastructure alone requires $10 billion worth of rejuvenation work, and Consolidated Edison is trying its best to convince regulators it shouldn't be stuck with the bill.
This latest quarter provides some reason to believe that Con Ed is getting regulation right. President and CEO John McAvoy noted in his earnings release statement that "[our] new rate plans provide stability for customers and certainty for shareholders."
For 2014 overall, CECONY should receive a $43 million net income boost from rate plans compared to 2013, helping push the corporation's total estimated year-over-year earnings per share increase to $0.57. While Con Ed didn't increase its 2014 guidance, it did confirm its previous range of $3.65 to $3.85 per share.
3. Earnings growth
Top lines are important, but earnings growth separates the streamlined from the slackers. Consolidated Edison's revenue has been at a veritable standstill for five years, but its net income has soared 80% -- meaning this utility is more efficient than ever.
For this latest quarter, Consolidated Edison, managed to beat expectations on both top and bottom lines. Adjusted earnings came in at $1.17, $0.12 above analyst estimates. This most recent report also marks the third straight quarter of earning beats.
Consolidated Edison's price-to-earnings and price-to-book ratio put this stock in value-grab territory. Add in strong cash flow, a religious adherence to dividend increases, recent regulatory wins, and better-than-expected earnings and you've got yourself a solid dividend stock. Consolidated Edison has significant upside, and long-term investors should consider this stock a "buy" for their dividend stock portfolio.
Justin Loiseau has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.