Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Southern Company (SO) Dividend Stock Analysis

Linked here is a detailed quantitative analysis of Southern Company (SO). Below are some highlights from the above linked analysis:

Company Description: Southern Company is an Atlanta-based energy holding company and is one of the largest producers of electricity in the U.S.

Fair Value: In calculating fair value, I consider the NPV MMA Differential Fair Value along with these four calculations of fair value, see page 2 of the linked PDF for a detailed description:

1. Avg. High Yield Price
2. 20-Year DCF Price
3. Avg. P/E Price
4. Graham Number
SO is trading at a discount to only 3.) above. When also considering the NPV MMA Differential, the stock is trading at a 14.3% premium to its calculated fair value of $40.91. SO did not earn any Stars in this section.

Dividend Analytical Data: In this section there are three possible Stars and three key metrics, see page 2 of the linked PDF for a detailed description:

1. Free Cash Flow Payout
2. Debt To Total Capital
3. Key Metrics
4. Dividend Growth Rate
5. Years of Div. Growth
6. Rolling 4-yr Div. > 15%

SO earned one Star in this section for 3.) above. SO earned a Star for having an acceptable score in at least two of the four Key Metrics measured. The company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since 1948 and has increased its dividend payments for 15 consecutive years.

Dividend Income vs. MMA: Why would you assume the equity risk and invest in a dividend stock if you could earn a better return in a much less risky money market account (MMA) or Treasury bond? This section compares the earning ability of this stock with a high yield MMA. Two items are considered in this section, see page 2 of the linked PDF for a detailed description:

1. NPV MMA Diff.
2. Years to > MMA

The NPV MMA Diff. of the $1,553 is below the $2,000 target I look for in a stock that has increased dividends as long as SO has. The stock's current yield of 4.75% exceeds the 2.01% estimated 20-year average MMA rate.

Peers: The company's peer group includes: NextEra Energy, Inc. (NEE) with a 3.0% yield, Entergy Corporation (ETR) with a 5.0% yield and CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (CNP) with a 4.3% yield.

Conclusion: SO did not earn any Stars in the Fair Value section, earned one Star in the Dividend Analytical Data section and did not earn any Stars in the Dividend Income vs. MMA section for a total of one Star. This quantitatively ranks SO as a 1-Star Very Weak stock.

Using my D4L-PreScreen.xls model, I determined the share price would need to decrease to $41.46 before SO's NPV MMA Differential increased to the $2,000 minimum that I look for in a stock with 15 years of consecutive dividend increases. At that price the stock would yield 5.4%.

Resetting the D4L-PreScreen.xls model and solving for the dividend growth rate needed to generate the target $2,000 NPV MMA Differential, the calculated rate is 4.4%. This dividend growth rate is higher than the 3.2% used in this analysis, thus providing no margin of safety. SO has a risk rating of 1.75, which classifies it as a Medium risk stock.

Southern Company's footprint is in the deep south where it operates in a stable regulatory atmosphere. The company's deal to purchase AGL could provide growth in gas infrastructure and possible synergies. Historically, the SO has enjoyed above-average returns on its investment. The stock is currently trading at a premium to its $40.91 calculated fair value. In addition, the company's high debt to total capital of 64% (up from 58%) and negative free cash flow payout of -56% (improved from -99%) will keep me from significantly adding to my position at this time.

Disclaimer: Material presented here is for informational purposes only. The above quantitative stock analysis, including the Star rating, is mechanically calculated and is based on historical information. The analysis assumes the stock will perform in the future as it has in the past. This is generally never true. Before buying or selling any stock you should do your own research and reach your own conclusion. See my Disclaimer for more information.

Full Disclosure: At the time of this writing, I was long in SO (2.0% of my High-Yield Portfolio). See a list of all my Dividend Growth Portfolio holdings here.

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Tags: SO, NEE, ETR, CNP,