Lori A. Burkhart
A new report from Moody's Investors Service finds that foreign investments often offer U.S. electric utility shareholders the prospect of higher returns, but hold little immediate upside benefits for bondholders.
The report, Some Investments Riskier Than Others in Wave of Overseas Expansion by U.S. Electric Utilities, finds that for bondholders, such investments detract from alternative uses of free cash flow. The bondholder could apply the invested money to debt service or repayment, or growing retained earnings to offset potential write-offs of stranded investment.
James C. Cater
A simple formula method shows utilities exactly how much to discount prices. Electric utilities have drawn attention recently (and criticism from some quarters) for granting off-the-tariff discounts to customers deemed at risk for migration to lower-priced competitive alternatives. Typically, utilities have offered discounts to high-load customers in exchange for a long-term purchase commitment providing either more certain earnings, higher expected earnings, or both.
Lori A. Burkhart
Moody's Investors Service has concluded that a properly structured securitization backed by the future cash flow from a utility's stranded investments can achieve a credit rating higher than the rating of the senior debt of the utility.
Moody's said this ability bodes well for the increasing number of investor-owned utilities expected to issue up to $75 billion of such securities by 2000 to recover uneconomic investments.
Michael C. Brower, and Brian Parsons
Some in Congress would link customer choice with a portfolio standard. How would that play in a wholesale power market where gas turbines rule the roost?
By Michael C. Brower and Brian Parsons
WHAT KINDS OF POWER PLANTS WILL
get built in a deregulated electric industry? If recent history offers any guide, utilities and independent power companies will succumb to the traditional wisdom and invest in gas-fired combustion turbines and combined-cycle plants. Sound reasons may exist for doing so. The plants are less expensive than conventional steam plants. They put less capital at risk.
John F. Childs
Do electric utilities understand how to earn profits for shareholders in a competitive market?
Here's one way to look at the problem. Gather a group of financial experts and ask this question: If a company's long-term bonds are rated AA, and yield 8 percent, what minimum return would you require from dividend yield and price appreciation to induce you to buy that company's stock?
The typical expert will say 12 percent, indicating a 4-percent premium (or spread) above AA bond yields.
Bruce W. Radford
Wall Street loves stranded costs. No kidding. For stockbrokers and underwriters accustomed to selling utility issues to widows and orphans, the prospect of asset-backed financing opens a whole new world. I'm talking here about "securitizing" stranded costs.
In a securitization, a trust takes beneficial title to utility assets (tangible or intangible) that have lost their value in the market, and sells "transition bonds" to a new set of investors, funneling the bond sales proceeds back to the utility and to its equity investors. Who pays the coupon? Why, it's the customer of course.
Steven Rosenstock, P.E., and Mark E. Krebs
If truth is the first casualty of war, as we learned from author Mark Krebs ("It's a War Out There: A Gas Man Questions Electric 'Efficiency,'" December 1996, p. 24), then certainly the truth has been mutilated beyond recognition.
His article, which suggests that electric utilities have used conservation and demand-side programs improperly (to build electric load at the expense of natural gas!) is full of inaccuracies, misleading charts and other errors.
Lori A. Burkhart
Each assumes a vertical breakup, but watch out for securitization.
It can prove difficult to detect any overt difference of opinion among financial credit rating agencies. That appears to be the case in today's electric utility industry, where Moody's, Duff & Phelps, and Standard & Poor's each predicts that a breakup of the vertically integrated utility is now virtually inevitable. The result, they say, will leave us with an industry made up of disaggregated high-risk power generators, and lower-risk companies engaged in transmission, distribution, and other related services.
John L. Domagalski, Agustin J. Ros, and Philip R. O'Connor
Which matters most: Cost? Price? Sales? Regulation?
Many investors no longer think of electric utility stocks primarily as dividend-rich, income-oriented investments. Instead, they have begun to consider new criteria in evaluating utility stocks (em criteria that might help explain some of the variations in equity price performance now seen among various utility companies.
J. Michael Parish, Richard S. Green and Stephen H. Kinney
Targeted Debt: Give the Stockholders What They Want
Too much leverage can be risky, but sometimes it's just what the doctor ordered.
One of the reasons that stockholders in Columbia Gas survived a Chapter XI proceeding more nearly intact than owners of other bankrupt utility enterprises was that the parent holding company was a secured creditor of its operating subsidiaries at the time of the filing.