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Fortnightly Magazine - October 2004

Winners and Losers: Utility Strategy and Shareholder Return

Diversified companies lead (and the globals lag) over the past five years.

James Coyne and Prescott Hartshorne

Business & Money

Winners and Losers:

Diversified companies lead (and the globals lag) over the past five years.

The unbundling of services and companies in the electricity and natural gas industries have created unprecedented opportunities to reinvent the traditional integrated utility model, with a broader array of attendant risks and rewards. But this past year was clearly one of retrenchment and strategic soul searching, allowing an opportunity to re-examine the sector for winning business formulas.

Technology Corridor

Cyber and Physical Security:
Christian Hamaker

Technology Corridor

Cyber and Physical Security:

Although NERC and other agencies are helping out, utilities still face internal obstacles.

CFOs speak out: Growth Strategy for the 21st Century

For The 21st Century
Richard Stavros

For The 21st Century

Interviews by

So it begins again. After several financially tumultuous years, executives at many of the nation's top utilities can once again look to the horizon and ask the growth question worthy of a Caesar: "What worlds to conquer?"

Utility executives are emboldened by bulging free cash flows, improved credit quality, lower operations and maintenance costs, favorable regulatory treatment, growing service territories, and increasing demand for power.

Utility M&A: Buying Time

Buying Time
Michael T. Burr

Buying Time

Slowly and cautiously, utilities are moving back into growth mode.

The air is buzzing with talk of mergers and acquisitions (M&A). It can be heard in the boardroom and on the trading floor. Bankers hear it, and they see their deal backlog beginning to grow. Fund managers hear it, as they hunt for the best buys in the market before strategic investors snatch them up. Financial advisers and lawyers hear it, too; their phones are ringing more than they have in years.

Dial M for Merger

When will utilities see the next round of deals?
Ken Marks

When will utilities see the next round of deals?

With the substantial decline in utility mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity since the heady days of 2000, it's time to ask when M&A activity might return, if at all. Business combinations provide a potentially important means for a utility to enhance its earning and growth prospects, and one of the few alternatives available to achieve these objectives at an acceptable risk.

The Future of Fuel Diversity: Crisis or Euphoria?

The fragmented electric industry structure poses an obstacle to a more stable, diverse, and secure power supply.
Ellen Lapson and Richard Hunter

The Future of Fuel Diversity

The fragmented electric industry structure poses an obstacle to a more stable, diverse, and secure power supply.

Daily news headlines have drawn attention to concerns about fuels, especially the rising prices of oil and natural gas. Fears of interruptions of oil exports from Iraq, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela (take your pick) roil the energy market. But coal is not exempt from bad news, as production declines reduce output from Eastern U.S.

The Dividend Yield Trap

Higher payouts aren't enough over the long term.
George W. Bilicic and Ian C. Connor

Higher payouts aren't enough over the long term.

The past two years witnessed the ascendancy of dividend yield in the valuations of U.S. electric utilities. The recent primacy of yield in utility-industry valuations is the product of a unique confluence of factors. The collapse of most of the industry's non-regulated growth initiatives has resulted in a market that attributes little value to the industry's growth prospects beyond that which has been historically generated by the expansion of rate base-1 to 3 percent.

Profiting from Transmission Investment

A holistic, new approach to cost/benefit analysis.
Kojo Ofori-Atta, Elliot Roseman, Bansari Saha, Scott Stuart, Marc Lipschultz & Jonathan Smidt

A holistic, new approach to cost/benefit analysis.

The still-fresh memories of last year's Northeast blackout coupled with rising congestion nationwide have increased awareness of the electric transmission investment shortfall in the United States. Such investment, in the right locations, would have a highly positive benefit-cost ratio. But how much should be spent?

Operations & Maintenance: Who Has the Best Margin?

Operations & Maintenance
Peter Manos

Operations & Maintenance

The process of calculating meaningful benchmarks is fraught with pitfalls.

Regulatory reporting requirements for major U.S. utilities provide a wealth of data for benchmarking studies. Both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Form 1 for electric utilities and FERC Form 2 for gas utilities involve the reporting of more than 2,500 unique data points per utility per year, across diverse aspects of utility operations, maintenance, and finance.

Frontlines

Will a back-to-basics strategy meet investor expectations?
Richard Stavros

Frontlines

Will a back-to-basics strategy meet investor expectations?

It's an issue that is coming to the fore with greater force-the debate over how utilities should honor their obligation to stockholders. But this time there seems to be quite a difference of opinion over strategy-or so we found in our annual finance issue.

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