Natural Gas DRIPs

09/26/2013 7:00 am EST


Roger Conrad

Chief Analyst/Managing Partner, Capitalist Times

Nothing compounds wealth like reinvesting a rising stream of dividends. Our DRIP portfolio focuses on companies that have grown reliably in all environments, and are set to do so for years to come, says Roger Conrad, editor of Conrad's Utility Investor.

One member of our dividend reinvestment portfolio is Dominion Resources (D); the company has won US Energy Department approval to construct a liquefied natural gas export facility at its Cove Point, Maryland site.

The deal must still get the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to start construction. But given FERC approval of other similar deals, the company is likely to gain clearance by first quarter 2014.

Demonstrating Dominion's underlying conservative operating and financial policies, the Cove Point project is already both fully-financed and pre-contracted for capacity.

At the end of the day, Dominion is an invest-to-grow story. Cove Point is just one of several high-impact projects that will keep the company's low-risk asset base growing at a steady 5% to 6% annually to the end of the decade and beyond.

In addition, Dominion has just proposed a spin-off of the company's natural gas assets into a master limited partnership, with an initial public offering in the second quarter of 2014.

Dominion's real designs are almost certainly on gaining new business for its storage assets and other midstream assets.

And if this sale follows precedent, it will include new contracts for the company to develop more infrastructure to handle the new output.

Piedmont Natural Gas (PNY) is also a member of our DRIP Portfolio. The company cut its loss in half in the seasonally weak fiscal third quarter ended July 31.

Nine-month earnings came in at $1.86 per share, up from $1.69 a share last year. And management stated it now expects full year results to hit the top end of its previously stated range of $1.67 to $1.77 per share.

Summer quarters typically produce losses at natural gas distributors like Piedmont, as demand for heating is low and this was no exception.

More important, however, customer growth continued to revive in the company's Carolinas and Tennessee territory, as management raised the full year forecast to between 1 and 1.5%.

Piedmont also has equity stakes in several large midstream energy projects, which provide reliable earnings, as well as, growth potential.

Somewhat surprisingly, Piedmont is one of the more heavily shorted regulated utilities. That appears to be mostly due to concerns about rising interest rates and the stock's price of 2.05 times book value.

There's nothing in the fiscal third quarter numbers, however, to indicate a real downside catalyst. Meanwhile, the road to low-risk growth in earnings and dividends appears relatively unimpeded. This low-risk company remains a solid investment.

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