Roger S. Conrad needs no introduction to individual and professional investors, many of whom have profited from his decades of experience uncovering the best dividend-paying stocks for accumulating sustainable wealth.
Roger built his reputation with Utility Forecaster, a publication he founded more than 20 years ago that The Hulbert Financial Digest routinely ranked as one of the best investment newsletters. He’s also a sought-after expert on master limited partnerships (MLP) and former Canadian royalty trusts.
In April 2013, Roger reunited with his long-time friend and colleague, Elliott Gue, becoming co-editor of Energy & Income Advisor, a semimonthly online newsletter that’s dedicated to uncovering the most profitable opportunities in the energy sector.
Although the masthead may have changed, readers can count on Roger to deliver the same high-quality analysis and rational assessment of the best dividend-paying utilities, MLPs and dividend-paying Canadian energy names.
The Dow Jones Utility Average is now underwater by nearly -7 percent including dividends so far in 2023. That’s more than 25 percentage points behind the S&P 500, which continues to be pushed higher by momentum-fueled big technology stocks.
In contrast, twice as many companies in my coverage universe (18) have so far raised their 2023 guidance following Q2 earnings as reduced it. And none have cut the longer-term growth guidance that will ultimately drive their share prices higher.
In July 2017, new Aggressive Holding Avista Corp (NYSE: AVA) accepted an all-cash takeover offer of $53 per share from Canadian utility Hydro One (TSX: H, OTC: HRNNF). Then followed basically a year and a half of futility. And the parties eventually broke off their deal in January 2019, when regulators in Idaho and Washington rejected it due to concerns about then Ontario premier Doug Ford. Avista shares overnight dropped from low-50s to the low-30s and have been attempting to fight their way back ever since. The primary hurdle: Investor concerns about regulation in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and especially Washington (60 percent of rate base), where the needs of the utility’s eastern state franchise are a world away from coastal politicians.
Rarely have shares of a high quality essential services company like Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) been treated so poorly by investors. In the July 18 Utility Roundup “Verizon and AT&T: Some Thoughts,” I highlighted two catalysts for downside this summer: Fear that Amazon.com would offer wireless service through its Prime brand and a Wall Street Journal investigative piece alleging telecoms have potential liabilities in the tens of billions of dollars from owning toxic lead-lined cable.
When you’re a long-term investor, momentum isn’t always going to flow your way. And when it’s against you—whatever the reason—it can be intensely frustrating, no matter how much in dividends you’re collecting. The greatest danger is it’s all too easy to conflate stock market weakness with a truly unraveling business. You may bail out prematurely from a company that’s only undergoing a temporary setback. Or alternatively, you might hold onto a stock that’s only just beginning its descent, as declining sales lead to dividend cuts and worse.
When a company cuts its dividend, its share price usually craters. The exception is if the reduction is part of a larger strategic move that makes sense. That’s the case for Aggressive Holding MDU Resources (NYSE: MDU), which reduced its quarterly dividend for payment in October by -43.8 percent to 12.5 cents per share.
In the 120 years plus since electricity, heating and water became essential services, not one regulated operating utility has ever gone out of business. That includes companies forced to declare bankruptcy, most recently California’s PG&E Corp (NYSE: PCG) The same can’t be said for communications. Since the Telecom Act of 1996 ended local phone monopolies, literally hundreds of companies have appeared only to vanish in a few years. And several in my Utility Report Card coverage universe are flirting with some form of debt restructuring now, including Altice USA (NYSE: ATUS), DISH Network Corp (NSDQ: DISH) and Lumen Technologies (NYSE: LUMN).
Roger's favorite utilities for investors seeking superior price appreciation by taking calculated risks.
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Warning: Falling Dividends.
Roger's current take and vital statistics on more than 200 essential-services stocks.