Mid-Atlantic Gas Utility a Buy

12/14/2012 7:45 am EST


Roger Conrad

Chief Analyst/Managing Partner, Capitalist Times

If you're looking for a good solid income stock with plenty of growth ahead and a solid balance sheet, this stock should be on the top of your list write Roger Conrad of Utility Forecaster.

Piedmont Natural Gas' (PNY) three-state natural gas distribution utility has long been among the most reliably growing franchises in America.

In fact, favorable regulation in the Carolinas and Tennessee has factored out volatile natural gas prices and even weather-related demand fluctuations from earnings.

Meeting earnings guidance is a matter of executing modest capital spending plans with regulators' approval. And the company has set another solid bar for its next fiscal year, which ends October 31, 2013, of $1.67 to $1.77 per share, ensuring another dividend boost of 3.5% to 4%.

Utility earnings will be fueled by customer growth a bit over 1% and recent rate increases in South Carolina and Tennessee, offset by higher costs for pensions and pipeline maintenance.

Projected capital expenditures of $525 million to $575 million, however, also include funds for completing a facility to store gas for Duke Energy's (DUK) neighboring power plants. Piedmont now owns and operates four such facilities for Duke, including one that went into operation in June 2012.

And last month it announced a $180 million investment for 24% of Williams Partners' (WPZ) Constitution Pipeline. Starting in March 2015, this 121-mile system will transport gas from the Marcellus Shale region in northern Pennsylvania to New York and New England.

Operated under long-term contracts, new midstream gas assets will fire up growth with little sacrifice of reliability.

And with utilities' gas usage rising, particularly in the Southeast US, there's considerable room for growth. Take advantage of the recent dip in Piedmont Natural Gas shares to buy.

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