Renewables were the hot ticket item in 2019 and 2020 is proving no different. So what to
do with Northland Power (Northland Power Stock Quote, Chart, News TSX:NPI) which is already up a sparkling 11 per cent for the year?
Buy it but tread carefully, says fund manager Ross Healy, who thinks there’s limited upside to the name.
Renewable energy stocks have been around for years but last year was a real coming out party, with names like Algonquin Power & Utilities and Brookfield Renewable Partners posting huge gains, while smaller and lesser known players like Xebec Adsorption and Greenlane Renewables (TSXV:GRN) also caught fire.
Part of a broader rally from the utilities, renewables have also benefitted from a global growth in demand for wind, solar and non-fossil-fuel extracting sources of energy, as countries worldwide work to make good on their pledges to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Toronto-based Northland, which owns and operates wind, natural gas, thermal, biomass and solar power generation facilities worldwide, including the La Lucha solar project in Mexico and the Deutsche Bucht offshore wind project in the North Sea. The company added to its stable last month by closing on the $1.05-billion purchase of a 99.2 per cent interest in Colombian regulated utility Empresa de Energía de Boyacá (“EBSA”), which serves a population of 1.3 million residents.
Northland saw its top and bottom lines grow in its latest earnings report in November where the company posted sales up eight per cent to $378 million for its third quarter 2019 and adjusted EBITDA up 14 per cent to $224 million. Management has guided for 2019 EBITDA of between $950 million and $1 billion with 2020 forecasted for over $1-billion.
“Northland continued to deliver healthy, sustainable results in the quarter with a 14 per cent increase in adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow per share over last year,” said Mike Crawley, President and CEO, in the third quarter press release.
“Most significantly, we acquired EBSA, a high-quality regulated Colombian utility. EBSA operates under a
stable regulatory environment with an inflation-protected perpetual cash flow and is expected to serve as a platform for future growth for Northland in Colombia.”
The good news has been reflected in Northland’s share price, which had been stagnant for a couple of years before breaking out in 2019, climbing 25 per cent last year and already heading higher in 2020. That growth comes on top of a healthy dividend which currently pays a four per cent yield.
But with that growth comes the potential to get overheated, which could soon be the case for Northland, says Healy, senior portfolio manager at MacNicol & Associates Asset Management and chairman of Strategic Analysis Corporation, who spoke to BNN Bloomberg on Thursday.
“Our intrinsic value of the company is about $34.00, which would give you a further 14 per cent upside and it would take you to one of our technical resistance points,” said Healy.
“Renewables are obviously one of the things that are hot and, of course, the stocks are doing very, very well. Just be careful when you’re buying into something that’s hot and it’s already had a big move that a lot of the move may well be behind you, based on what those companies can actually generate in terms of earnings,” Healy said.