4 Overlooked Utilities Offering Great Value

By Aryeh Katz | March 04, 2010 AAA

The utilities have been strong performers of late, particularly since the market began its retreat in the middle of January. But now that the S&P 500 is back in positive territory for the year, it looks like time to dig out a few utility names that still have strong fundamentals and are sporting a value investor's dream combination of high yields, low P/Es and low price to book.

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Progress Energy, Inc. (NYSE:PGN) is an $11 billion electrical utility by market cap that serves over three million retail customers in the Carolinas and Florida. The company's shares trade with a multiple of 13x last year's earnings and currently offer an annual 6.3% yield. Progress stock is up close to 20% over the last twelve months, underperforming the broad utility sector as measured by the Utilities SPDR ETF (NYSE:XLU), which turned in nearly 25% in gains over the same time period. The ETF currently offers investors slightly less than a 5% dividend.

Ford Makes Progress
The Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) has just teamed with Progress Energy in an effort to bring the auto giant's electric hybrid vehicle to the next phase of commercial readiness. Together with the University of Florida and the U.S. Department of Energy, the duo will be road testing Ford's first Escape PHEV with a vehicle-to-electric "smart" grid communications and control system.

PGN shares trade slightly higher than the firm's breakup value, with a Price/Book ratio of 1.12. Price-to-sales on the shares is 1.12.

Ameren Corporation (NYSE:AEE) is also in the energy transmission business, with both natural gas and electricity delivery operations. The company serves broad swaths of Illinois and Missouri via six separate subsidiaries.

Low Price/Book and Price/Sales Numbers
Shares in Ameren have risen 20% over the last year and trade with a P/E of about 9. The dividend yield on the stock is 6% and price-to-sales is a mere 0.85. AEE also shares well below book value, with a P/B of just 0.76.

The company's latest earnings report was securely in line with expectations after cost-cutting measures, including a reduction in the dividend, were instituted last year.

Pepco Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:POM) has a P/E of 14, a dividend yield of 6.5 and a P/B of 0.87. Price-to-sales for this Mid-Atlantic supplier of energy is 0.40. POM shares are up better than 30% in the past year.

The Wrap
Utilities were a popular defensive play through the end of 2009. Look now for the best of the sector to shine as economic numbers prove more optimistic. (To learn more, see Trust In Utilities.)

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