Those who invest in the utilities sector aren't ones who like to see lots of changes or surprises. So the news that Wisconsin Energy was changing its name to WEC Energy Group (NYSE:WEC) after the $9 billion acquisition of Integrys Energy may have been enough for any utility investor to handle in a year. Luckily for those invested in the company, this past quarter's results were almost devoid of surprises as the company appears to be on track to meet its expected goals in the near and long term. Let's take a quick look at the numbers to see how WEC Group did and what to expect in the coming quarters.
By the numbers
WEC Group's second-quarter revenue came in at $991 million, a 4.9% decline from the same quarter last year. The biggest chunk of that revenue decline came from its gas utility business as weather degree days were about 5% lower than average, meaning that customers were using less gas for heating in the early parts of the second quarter.
Based on that slight decline in revenue, it shouldn't be a shock that earnings would decline slightly in comparison to last year. However, this quarter's earnings per share of $0.36 came in almost 40% lower than this time last year. Before your jaw drops too far looking at that number, let's put this in context: This quarter, WEC Group closed on its $9.1 billion acquisition of Integrys Energy Group, and the costs related to that acquisition resulted in a one-time $0.24 hit to earnings. If we were to back this charge out of earnings, WEC's earnings came in at a much healthier looking $0.59 per share, right where it was a year ago.
It should be noted as well that this quarter's earnings did not include the operational results of Integrys. Since the deal closed on June 29, we can expect to see the full effect of the Integrys acquisition in terms of both revenue and earnings.
What probably matters more to WEC shareholders is the company's cash situation, and this quarter didn't disappoint. Cash from operations came in at a $715 million, right in line with last year. Excluding the $1.3 billion acquisition charges for the quarter -- which was mostly covered with a debt issuance -- capital expenditures and dividend payments were still well below its cash generated from operations, a great sign for a company that expects to grow its dividend at an 8% clip between now and 2017.
Based on results so far this year, management is guiding for earnings per share to be between $2.67 and $2.77 per share. This is, of course, under the assumption that there are no abnormal weather patterns for the rest of the year that would impact electricity or gas consumption.
WEC Group also anticipates that it will raise its dividend another 8% throughout the second half of the year to a quarterly rate of $0.4575 per share. On an annualized basis, this would represent a 128% in the company's dividend payout in the past five years.
Very rarely are a utilities earnings reports a riveting read, and this one from WEC Group was no exception. Considering the regulated nature of the business, though, boring earnings is probably exactly what you want to see. The company was able to deliver on its earnings and cash flow despite the less-than-ideal weather for the quarter, and its integration of Integrys appears to be going along swimmingly. Based on the company's results, it appears that its ambitions for earnings and dividend growth are well within the cards.
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