American Water Works Company AWK announced that its unit, Pennsylvania American Water, has entered into an agreement to acquire the wastewater assets of the Sadsbury Township in Chester County, for nearly $8.6 million. This acquisition will add nearly 1,000 wastewater customers to its existing customer base. Most of these customers receive water services from Pennsylvania American Water.
Pennsylvania American Water, through its existing distribution network, serves nearly 2.4 million people in Pennsylvania. The said acquisition will expand the existing customer base and allow the company to render quality services to new customers at a reasonable cost.
Consolidation & Investment is Essential
Since the existing water and wastewater infrastructure in the United States is aging, proper maintenance and upgradation of the system will require investment of billions of dollars, which becomes difficult for small water utilities to make arrangement for. Per an American Water Works Association (“AWWA”) report, the cost of restoring aging underground water pipelines in the United States will be at least $1 trillion in the next 25 years.
Therefore, through the acquisition of small utilities, it becomes easier for large companies to make arrangement for funds to carry out these major overhauls. American Water, which is one of the most active players in the water space, continues to widen its market reach through acquisitions. In 2018, the company added 25,000 new customers in the regulated business through organic growth and acquisitions. It already completed a few acquisitions in 2019 and the pending ones, on completion, are expected to add nearly 61,000 customers to its customer base during the year.
We can also notice that other active water utilities like Global Water Resources, Inc. GWRS and Aqua America WTR have been pursuing acquisitions.
Large water utilities continue to invest in upgrading as well as maintaining their existing water and wastewater infrastructure. The water utilities have been undertaking initiatives to upgrade the systems of the newly-acquired assets and quality of services.
The company aims to invest within $8-$8.6 billion from 2019 through 2023, which will help improve earnings by 7-10% per year in the aforesaid period from a 2017 base. A major chunk of $7.3 billion will be directed to strengthen regulated businesses. Another water utility, Aqua America aims to make capital investment in excess of $1.4 billion over the 2019-2021 time period.
Shares of American Water have outperformed the industry in a year’s time.
Zacks Rank & Another Key Pick
Currently, American Water has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Another top-ranked stock from the same industry is AquaVenture Holdings Ltd. WAAS, sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2019 loss of the company has narrowed 2.9% in the past 60 days. The earnings and revenue estimates reflect year-over-year growth of 26.7% and 16%, respectively.
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