(September 2009) The industry’s best companies are weathering the financial storm reasonably well, with the F40 delivering equity returns in the 14-percent range for fiscal 2008....
The Fortnightly 40 Financial Ratings
Which is the best energy company?
What might have been a seemingly simple question to answer in the energy industry of 20 years ago is today fraught with difficulty. With the divestitures, spin-offs and convergence mergers of the late 1990s and early 2000s that were spurred by deregulation, no longer do we have cookie-cutter, vertically integrated utilities in all parts of the country (if we ever did).
Rather, some of what we do have today includes E&P (exploration and production) firms that own electric or gas utilities, pipelines that own power plants, and electric utilities that have entered the E&P business.
With the August signing of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which includes repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act, many industry watchers say further consolidation is all but assured.
In fact, many predict the energy industry not only will consolidate, but will converge as well with outsiders such as investment banks, insurance companies, private equity firms, oil majors, and retailers. And it is this continued consolidation trend in the industry that demands a new grounded in finance to discuss and identify industry performance and value.
One method, known as operational benchmarking analysis, while still effective at making comparisons of individual assets, has become increasingly difficult to use in comparing companies with ever-changing asset mixes. Thus, our readers have asked for a type of analysis that more truly communicates value to future investors, future owners, energy asset operators, regulators, and consumers.
With that aim, in this issue, Public Utilities Fortnightly introduces a new standard for excellence in the energy industry. Presenting the Fortnightly 40 financial energy rankings of electric and gas utilities, pipelines and distribution companies: a benchmark that highlights the industry's leading companies—its brightest stars proven in performance and exceptional corporate management.
On Top of the Energy World
But Fortnightly didn’t stop there. The winners also are companies that are g-r-o-w-i-n-g. Most utility executives told the Fortnightly that it shouldn’t be enough to pay a large dividend and then go home. There must be a viable business with evidence of future growth, they said. The story of Sempra Energy illustrates the type of company that made it to our rankings. Neal E. Schmale, executive vice president, chief financial officer and a member of the board of directors of Sempra Energy (No. 16), recalls the days before his company became a super conglomerate.
"When Sempra was first formed back in 1998 we were paying out effectively almost 100 percent of our earnings as dividends. One of the things