Utilities have held up relatively well in the first four months of a tumultuous 2020. But there&rsqu...
Fortis: Canada's Old Faithful
12/02/2019 5:00 am EST
Fortis Corporation (FTS) is Canada's version of Old Faithful, the geyser in Yellowstone National Park that can be counted on to erupt every 90 minutes, observes Gordon Pape, dividend specialist and editor The Income Investor.
Fortis can be depended on to raise its dividend at this time every year, through good times and bad.
The company recently announced a 6.1% dividend increase to $0.4775 per quarter ($1.91 annually), effective with the Dec. 1 payment.
This is the 46th consecutive year that Fortis has increased its payout and it's not going to stop anytime soon. The company is projecting annual dividend increases in the 6% range at least until 2024.
Many investors still know little or nothing about it, despite its dividend aristocrat credentials. Perhaps it's because the head office is in St. John's, Newfoundland. But make no mistake about it — this is an impressive company. Fortis runs an international utility empire with assets worth $53 billion.
Its history dates back to 1885, when it was founded as the St. John's Electric Light Company. It 1990, Fortis acquired Maritime Electric in Prince Edward Island. In 1996, it moved into Ontario and in 1999 went international by acquiring assets in the Cayman Islands and Belize. In 2012, it moved into the U.S.
Today, Fortis serves more than three million gas and electric customers across its system. Total revenue in 2018 was $8.4 billion. Third-quarter results were consistent with a year ago, as you might expect from a utility. Adjusted net earnings were $287 million ($0.66 per share) compared to $277 million ($0.65 a share) in the same period last year.
For the first nine months of the fiscal year, Fortis earned $838 million ($1.93 per share). The comparable year-ago numbers were $825 million ($1.95 per share). There was an increase in the number of common shares outstanding this year, which explains the lower earnings per share.
When I first recommended buying Fortis back in 2005, I wrote: "This is a stock that offers steady and increasing cash flow and modest long-term growth potential with limited downside risk." More than 14 years later, the same words still apply. I rate the stock a buy.
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