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Sempra Energy (SRE) Q1 Earnings: Stock to Disappoint?

Energy services holding company, Sempra Energy SRE will report its first-quarter 2016 earnings results before the opening bell on May 4.

Last quarter, Sempra Energy recorded a 12.21% positive earnings surprise. Let’s see how things are shaping up for the first quarter.



Factors at Play

Sempra Energy appears well positioned on the back of stable earnings from its utility subsidiaries. The company continues to make systematic investments in infrastructure development projects.

During the fourth-quarter 2015 earnings call, Sempra Energy said that it expects capital expenditure and investment for 2016 to be approximately $5.1 billion. This includes $2.7 billion for California Utilities and $2.4 billion for its other subsidiaries for the acquisition of its joint-venture partner’s 50% interest in GdC, for capital projects in Mexico and South America, and for the development of LNG, natural gas and renewable generation projects.

Sempra Energy has a history of paying incremental dividends. The company hiked its quarterly dividend 8% in February. The company presently shells out an annual dividend of $3.02 per share, up from $2.80 paid earlier. Its efforts on maximizing shareholder value through the payment of regular dividends will likely retain investor interest in the stock.

In March, Sempra Energy’s unit, Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, entered into a strategic partnership with Sol Systems, a solar energy finance and investment firm, to explore prospects of distributed generation investment in companies and projects across the U.S. Under the terms of the deal, a strategic investment was made by Sempra U.S. Gas & Power in Sol Systems.

Again in February, the company’s unit, Sempra LNG & Midstream signed an agreement with a subsidiary of Woodside Petroleum Ltd. for continuing the development of the proposed Port Arthur LNG natural gas liquefaction facility in Port Arthur, TX. These investments will likely boost the company’s performance.

However, a few regulatory cases by Sempra Energy’s regulated utilities are still yet to receive approval by regulatory bodies. Any adverse decision in the upcoming General Rate Case and Cost-of-Capital proceedings will substantially affect its utility earnings.

What Our Model Indicates

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

Zacks ESP: The Earnings ESP, which represents the difference between the Most Accurate estimate and the Zacks Consensus Estimate, is +3.09%. This is because the Most Accurate estimate stands at $1.67, while the Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged lower at $1.62.

Zacks Rank: Sempra’s Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). As it is, we caution against stocks with a Zacks Ranks #4 or #5 (Sell-rated stocks) going into the earnings announcement.

Stocks to Consider

Here is a stock in the gas distributor utility space you may want to consider, as our model shows that it has the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this season:

Northwest Natural Gas Company NWN has an Earnings ESP of +8.13% and a Zacks Rank #3. It will report quarterly results on May 3.

Peer Releases

DTE Energy Company DTE reported first-quarter 2016 operating earnings per share of $1.52, in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Reported earnings, however, dropped 7.9% from the year-ago figure of $1.65.

Entergy Corporation ETR reported first-quarter 2016 operational earnings of $1.35 per share, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.17 by 15.4%. The reported number, however, plunged 19.6% from $1.68 per share reported in the year-ago period.

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