On Apr 26, 2013, the shares of PPL Corp. (PPL - Analyst Report) hit a new 52 week high of $33.15. The utility’s focus on rate-regulated investments propelled the stock to a new high. The company registered earnings surprises in the past four quarters with an average beat of 10.71%.
PPL’s wide customer base served well in generating healthy revenues. The company provides power to around 1.4 million consumers in Pennsylvania alone and to 7.8 million UK consumers as well.
Going forward, PPL’s high-end acquisition of AES Ironwood, L.L.C and AES Prescott, L.L.C, now known as PPL Ironwood from The AES Corp. (AES - Analyst Report) has strengthened its natural gas portfolio. This has expanded PPL’s regulated business which stood to gain from rising coal-to-gas switching in 2012.
The company’s efforts to upgrade its midstream infrastructure have also helped in delivering uninterrupted electric services. PPL’s Western Power Distribution invested £3.7 million (approximately $6.0 million) to boost reliability of its transmission services in UK’s Irthlingborough network.
Further, the company recently proposed to better equip its power assets and spend about $1 billion in 2013.
The company’s sound financial position has also supported its growth-related endeavors and will further aid in developing its inorganic growth strategy. PPL’s impressive dividend profile has been a major highlight with the recent quarterly increase of 2.1% to 36.75 cents. The annual dividend yield of the company is 4.45% substantially higher than the industry average of 2.98%.
The present valuation too makes the shares of PPL attractive. The forward price/earnings (P/E) multiple 13.7x is lower than the peer group average of 15.3x, reflecting a discount of 10.45%. In addition, Return on Equity ("ROE") of the company is 12.8%, higher than the peer group average of 9%.
PPL Corp. at present carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other operators in the utility space currently looking good are Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P. (BIP - Snapshot Report) and Pike Electric Corp. (PIKE - Snapshot Report). Both the stocks hold a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).