Sempra Energy’s (SRE - Analyst Report) adjusted first quarter 2014 earnings per share came in at $1.03, above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 94 cents by 9.6%. The quarterly results also showed impressive 43.1% growth from the year-ago profit of 72 cents per share mainly due to higher contributions from its utility businesses.
Total revenue of Sempra Energy in the quarter was $2,795.0 million, up almost 5.5% year over year. The top line also beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by almost 1.0%. The company’s utility operations generated revenues of $2,485.0 million (up 6.5% year over year), while its energy-related businesses generated $310.0 million (down 1.9%).
San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E): Quarterly adjusted earnings were $108.0 million compared with $91.0 million in the year-ago quarter. The upside primarily reflects higher California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) base margin and the delay in the General Rate Case decision. However, the positives were partly offset by a $9 million charge related to the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).
Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas): The segment generated earnings of $78.0 million, up from $46.0 million in first quarter 2013, backed by higher CPUC base operating margin.
Sempra South American Utilities: The segment recorded earnings of $35.0 million, down marginally from $37.0 million in the prior-year period.
Sempra Mexico: The segment recorded earnings of $42.0 million, up from $31.0 million in first quarter 2013. The improvement primarily reflects regulatory earnings for pipeline projects under construction along with lower income-tax expense.
Sempra Renewables: The segment recorded earnings of $28.0 million, up considerably from $4.0 million in first quarter 2013. This upsurge was attributable to the sale of a 50% equity interest in the Copper Mountain Solar 3 project.
Sempra Natural Gas: The segment earned $9.0 million versus $53.0 million in the prior-year period due to a $44 million gain recorded in the prior-year quarter related to the sale of half of the Mesquite Power natural gas-fired power plant.
As of Mar 31, 2014, cash and cash equivalents were $844.0 million, down from $904 million as of Dec 31, 2013. Long-term debt was $11,797 million (including current portion), down from $12,400 million at 2013 end. During the March quarter, cash flow from operating activities was $904.0 million, up from $835.0 million in the year-ago period.
The company’s capital expenditure was $813 million during the quarter versus $536 million in the first quarter 2013.
Sempra Energy has been riding high on its Cameron LNG Liquefaction-export Project. A Sempra Energy unit, Sempra LNG, is the prime company developing this project, which comprises three liquefaction trains with a nameplate capacity of approximately 13.5 million tons per annum of LNG. The construction is slated to start later this year and the company has several large projects in Mexico and Peru coming online in the second half of 2014.
For 2014, Sempra reaffirmed its expectation between $4.25 and $4.55 per share. Earlier, the company had projected earnings of $5.10 to $5.60 per share for 2017. However, its earnings guidance through 2017 does not take into account any major contribution from its Cameron liquefied natural gas export project in Louisiana. The project is not expected to be fully operational until the end of 2018.
Sempra Energy presently retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Stocks worth considering are AGL Resources Inc. (GAS - Analyst Report), Delta Natural Gas Company, Inc. and New Jersey Resources Corp. (NJR - Snapshot Report), all with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).