Based on the aggregated intelligence of 170,000-plus investors participating in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free investing community, electric utility giant Southern (NYSE: SO) has earned a respected four-star ranking.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at Southern's business and see what CAPS investors are saying about the stock right now.

Southern facts

Headquarters (founded)

Atlanta (1945)

Market Cap

$31.5 billion

Industry

Electric utilities

Trailing-12-Month Revenue

$16.6 billion

Management

Chairman/CEO David Ratcliffe
CFO Arthur Beattie

Return on Equity (average, past 3 years)

13.3%

Cash/Debt

$271.3 million / $20.5 billion

Dividend Yield

4.8%

Competitors

American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP)
Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK)
Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN)
NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE)

Sources: Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor's) and Motley Fool CAPS.

On CAPS, 94% of the 872 members who have rated Southern believe the stock will outperform the S&P 500 going forward. These bulls include All-Star Lituus, who is ranked in the top 5% of our community, and aleax.

This past summer, Lituus tapped Southern as an electric income opportunity: "Buying utilities to generate dividends for a while. [Southern] is solid, has very high dividend and a good position in nuclear in case the country ever gets back on that bandwagon."

Southern's enviable position in the business-friendly Southeast continues to fuel its four-star CAPS status. Thanks in large part to close regulatory relationships, Southern's five-year average operating margin (21.6%) tops that of utility foes AEP (18%), Duke (17.4%), Progress (17.2%), and NextEra (16.4%). While the stock's current dividend yield of 4.8% is just below the industry average, CAPS member aleax thinks Southern's total return potential is tough to beat:

You get all the benefits of a typical well-run utility (solidity, superb dividend yields) AND exciting growth prospects because [Southern] is breaking grounds on the first US nuclear plant [in 30 years] (and it's really the only realistic alternative today to fossil fuels for base-load generation!); with superb political skills, [Southern] has ensured great load guarantees from the feds AND advance authorization for rate hikes to cover financing costs from state regulators.

What do you think about Southern, or any other stock for that matter? If you want to retire rich, you need to put together the best portfolio you can. Owning exceptional stocks is a surefire way to secure your financial future, and on Motley Fool CAPS, thousands of investors are working every day to find them. CAPS is 100% free, so get started!

Fool contributor Brian Pacampara owns no position in any of the companies mentioned. Duke Energy and Southern Co. are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of and has written covered calls on NextEra Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Fool's disclosure policy always gets a perfect score.