Any company associated with the word "energy" isnt having the best of times lately, even if its business has little exposure to the effects of oil and gas prices like Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE). This was made even more obvious this quarter when Sempra Energy increased earnings more than 9% compared to this time last year, yet shares have not kept pace with that growth.
Wall Street may have had a rather tepid response to Sempra's second-quarter earnings release, but that doesn't mean it was bad. Here are three key takeaways you should know about Sempra's earnings for the quarter.
1. Earnings beat expectations despite missing on revenue.
Sempra's second-quarter earnings on a GAAP basis came in at $1.17 per share, which easily outpaced consensus analyst estimate of $0.98 compiled by S&P Capital IQ. Even if we were to strip out some of the gains that came from a sale of its Mesquite Power plant and charges related to its development of LNG, it would still come in well above analyst expectations. This may come at a bit of a surprise considering that revenue came in more than $400 million lower than expectations. These better-than-expected net income results despite lower revenues should come as a good omen for shareholders as it suggests the company is generating stronger margins at some of its faster-growing segments such as its international holdings.
2. SoCalGas's lower earnings are a big red herring.
One item that may throw many investors off-guard when they dig into the financial statements is that Sempra's Southern California gas segment saw a $10 million decline in earnings compared to this time last year despite new investments. Even worse, compared to the sequential quarters numbers, it looks downright dismal.
These numbers aren't as bad as they seem, though. In the first quarter this year, Sempra adopted an order by the California Public Utilities Commission to recognize revenues from the utility's core activities on a seasonally adjusted basis. Prior to this past quarter, revenue in this segment were reported such that they were smoothed out a bit over the entire year. Under this new order, though, earnings from this segment will fluctuate, and typically gas demand is highest in the first quarter of the year.
If Sempra were to report earnings under this segment using its old reporting methods, the SoCal Gas segment would have been $48 million higher than what is presently reported and a healthy increase over the same quarter last year. Once we get into 2016, it will be much easier to compare earnings on a year-over-year basis.
3. Sempra is making big headways in its Mexico operations.
Mexico is currently in the middle of a $28 billion investment plan to moderinize its natural gas pipeline, power generation, and transmission infrastructure, and slowly but surely Sempra is capturing a lot of these projects through its Mexico business segment, IEnova. As part of this quarter's earnings release, it had announced that it had been awarded a project to supply natural gas to a power-generating facility in the Chihuahua region. Sempra estimates the cost of the supply pipeline for this facility will be about $110 million and the contract will last 25 years. But this is just a small example of the $2.3 billion worth of projects that Sempra intends to bid on by the end of the year.
Also, the company announced that it would buy out Petroleos Mexicanos' (PEMEX) stake in $1.5 billion worth of joint venture projects that involve various pipelines and storage terminals. Sempra expects this deal to be immediately accretive to earnings when the deal closes before year-end.
We are starting to see the effects of these new projects on the bottom line as well. Earnings from IEnova attributable to Sempra grew 11% on a year-over-year basis. As more and more of these major projects in Mexico come online, we can expect Sempra's Mexico operations to be a larger part of the overall company in the future.
What a Fool believes
Sempra is gearing up for some big plans down the road. Between the development of the Cameron LNG facility in the Gulf Coast and the expansion of its international business through numerous bids on Mexico's infrastructure program, Sempra is expecting at least a 50% increase in earnings per share between now and 2019. That might not sound like much in other industries, but for a company that is primarily invested in utilities, that is a very ambitious growth plan. This quarter's growth thanks to some of those initiatives starting to bear fruit, most notably its international segment, seems to suggest that Sempra is on track. These moves suggest that if Sempra is not already on your watch list of steadily growing dividend payers, then perhaps it's time that it is.