When it comes to finding great stocks to own, following the lead of market gurus can bear some serious fruit. And when it comes to gurus, Ray Dalio at Bridgewater Associates is one of the best. Which makes his increase stake in CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (NYSE:CNP) very intriguing. After a disastrous 2016, CNP stock was on a much better footing in 2017.
And many of same trends that propelled it through last year are still going strong. With Dalio upping his stake in a big way, investors may want to follow suit and take a spin with CNP.
Mega-Sized Struggles At CenterPoint Energy
On the surface, CenterPoint is just like every other utility. CNP is one of the largest natural gas utilities, with operations across six states, including a huge number of electricity generation assets in Texas. These assets are pretty boring and produce the kind of cash flows that dividend investors love. The problem is, utilities aren’t known for their growth.
To that end, back in 2013, CNP — along with OGE Energy Corp. (NYSE:OGE) — formed Enable Midstream Partners LP (NYSE:ENBL) to add a bit of growth to their utility assets. Since then, ENBL has added miles of gathering lines, interstate natural gas lines, processing assets and gas storage, assets that have provided CenterPoint with a ton of growth. They’ve also provided CNP with plenty of volatility when it comes to its earnings.
Thanks to the downturn in oil and natural gas prices, many of ENBL’s assets started to slip in terms of earnings power. That’s pretty significant as CNP derives about 28% of its revenues from cash payments from its stake in Enable. In fact, things got so bad at ENBL, CenterPoint was forced to take a $1.6 billion equity loss on its stake in the midstream master limited partnership and it lost a staggering $1.61 per share back at the beginning of 2016.
With conditions getting worse and the oil/natural gas downturn showing no sign of abating, CNP was looking into strategic alternatives for its ENBL stake. That included spinning-off the struggling general partnership stake or even outright selling its position.
Dalio Buys Big Into CenterPoint Energy
But as we know, “lower for longer” has turned into steadily rising prices. And CNP’s investment in Enable is coming back in a big way. As energy has bounced back and oil production has returned, ENBL is starting to pay some serious benefits. CenterPoint realized more than $265 million in dividends last year from its stake. That’s a 27% jump from what it received in 2016.
Because of the increase at Enable, CenterPoint Energy managed to see an 18% jump in its earnings over last. And with the continued gains, management now expects to earn between $1.50 and $1.60 this year. The high estimate would be an additional 16% jump to its bottom line.
That could help explain why Dalio and Bridgewater took an even bigger stake in the firm. Looking at Bridgewater’s last 13-F, Dalio has increased his stake in CNP by over 70% in a short three months. In fact, Dalio re-upped his stake in OGE as well after exiting the position. This increase is pretty significant as Bridgewater is the world’s largest hedge fund and Dalio prides himself on finding growth-at-a-reasonable-price (GARP) style stocks.
There’s a good chance that Dalio predicts that CNP’s stake –and OGE’s, for that matter — in ENBL should reap bigger benefits as energy prices continue their ascent. That could make the stake worth a ton more not only as it provides equity income/dividends to CNP, but as an asset on CenterPoint Energy’s balance sheet.
Following Dalio Into CNP Stock
So, should you follow Dalio into CNP stock? The answer may be a resounding yes. CenterPoint isn’t like most utilities as it has this unique growth element to it that is currently experiencing a real rebound. Meanwhile, shares are trading for peanuts — currently at a forward P/E of 17 and a hefty 4.16% dividend yield. That’s a little cheaper and a little higher yielding than the broader utility sector.
The thing to remember is that CNP will be a little more volatile than your average utility as well. The name of the name is going to be strengthening earnings from its pipeline assets and how they translate into gains at the parent energy firm. That’s where the growth and real rebound is.
But as long as ENBL continues to see gains, CenterPoint Energy should as well. And that makes Dalio’s buy of CNP stock a smart buy.
Disclosure: As of this writing, the author did not own the aforementioned stock.
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