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Spectra Energy (SE) Q1 Earnings: Will it Disappoint Investors?

Spectra Energy SE is expected to report first-quarter 2016 earnings on May 4.

In the last quarter, the company’s earnings of 28 cents per share missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 33 cents. The quarter's results also plunged 40.4% from the year-ago earnings of $0.47 per share. Let’s see how things are shaping up prior to the announcement.


Factors Likely to Affect Earnings

Though we believe that commodity price concerns remain in the near term, the company’s core fee-based businesses of storage, transmission, distribution, along with Canadian gathering and processing, have the potential to move the needle toward solid earnings and cash flow growth. Spectra, going forward, intends to increase its presence in the oil and refined products pipelines, storage tanks and terminals businesses.

Spectra’s growth momentum continues through both organic and inorganic means. Also, the company remains upbeat about its prospects in 2016. This is emphasized by its increased dividend of $0.14 per share in 2016. We expect strong returns from the company’s western Canadian assets, BC Pipeline, BC Field Services, Midstream and Natural Gas Liquids. These constitute the largest natural gas midstream businesses in Canada and are well positioned for growth. These should also boost the first-quarter earnings.

However, Spectra’s results are vulnerable to fluctuations in natural gas markets. The proposed liquid-rich drilling activities by the company clearly suggest that low natural gas prices have little chance of recovery in the near term.

Though most of Spectra's revenues are based on regulated tariff rates, an unfavorable macro environment may result in lower earnings and cash flows. Moreover, with a relatively heavy debt-to-capitalization ratio of 57.5%, the company's balance sheet remains highly leveraged.

Earnings Whispers

Our proven model does not conclusively show that Spectra is likely to beat earnings this quarter. That is because a stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank of #1 (Strong Buy), 2 (Buy) or 3 (Hold) for this to happen. That is not the case here, as you will see below.

Zacks ESP:  Earnings ESP, which represents the difference between the Most Accurate estimate and the Zacks Consensus Estimate, is currently pegged at -5.26%. The Most Accurate estimate for Schlumberger stands at 36 cents while the Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged higher at 38 cents.

Zacks Rank: Spectra carries a Zacks Rank #3. Though a favorable Zacks Rank increases the predictive power of ESP, the company’s negative ESP makes surprise prediction difficult.

We caution against Sell-rated stocks (Zacks Rank #4 and 5) going into the earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions.

Stocks to Consider

Here are some companies from the energy sector that, according to our model, have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this quarter:  

Chesapeake Energy CHK has an Earnings ESP of +9.09% and a Zacks Rank #3.

Rowan Companies plc RDC has an Earnings ESP of +2.70% and a Zacks Rank #3.

Dril-Quip Inc DRQ has an Earnings ESP of +1.47% and a Zacks Rank #3.

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Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report
SPECTRA ENERGY (SE): Free Stock Analysis Report
DRIL-QUIP INC (DRQ): Free Stock Analysis Report
ROWAN COS PLC (RDC): Free Stock Analysis Report
CHESAPEAKE ENGY (CHK): Free Stock Analysis Report
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