NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE) has had the wind at its back over the past several quarters. The clean-energy-focused utility's earnings grew 15% in 2018, and it continued its strong momentum during 2019's first quarter, when earnings rose another 12% year over year. The company is benefiting from its investments in building out more wind and solar power generating capacity, as well as its needle-moving acquisitions.
Those dual fuels should have kept the utility's growth engine humming along during the second quarter, but investors will want to keep an eye on the details when it reports on the period's results later this week.
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Keep an eye on its guidance
NextEra Energy's management has forecast another good year. The utility is currently expected to produce between $8 and $8.50 per share of adjusted earnings in 2019, which at the midpoint would be about 7% higher than last year's total. Achieving that outlook would keep the company on track to hit its three-year forecast to grow its adjusted earnings at a 6% to 8% compound annual rate.
A solid start during the first quarter put NextEra Energy on course to hit its full-year earnings target. However, there are a few areas that warrant a bit of extra scrutiny from investors.
First, look at its progress on integrating Gulf Power, which it acquired last year. The company noted in its Q1 report that integration was progressing as planned. One of the highlight metrics was that base retail operation and maintenance costs were down nearly 5% year over year. Ideally, the company will continue to make progress on this front, since Gulf Power will play an important role in driving incremental earnings growth in 2020 and 2021.
Beyond that, investors should watch for any indications that Mother Nature has been holding back the performance of the company's other two segments, FPL and NextEra Energy Resources. Weak wind resources, for example, negatively impacted results at NextEra Energy Resources during Q1. If the weather continues to adversely affect its ability to generate electricity, the company might not grow earnings as fast as it had previously predicted this year.
Check out its progress securing new growth projects
NextEra Energy is already the world's largest producer of electricity from the wind and the sun, and rather than resting on its laurels, it's continuing to build out more renewable generating capacity. During Q1, it added 953 megawatts (MW) of new projects to its backlog. That brought its total signed contracts up to more than 11,900 MW worth of projects that should be in service by the end of 2020. Indeed, the company had forecast that it would secure between 10,100 MW and 16,500 MW of new capacity projects, so it has already hit the low end of that range.
Regarding that outlook, investors will want to hear how much new capacity the company secured during Q2. The closer NextEra Energy comes to achieving the higher end of its forecast, the more likely it will be to grow its earnings at the upper end of its guidance range through 2021.
Expecting more of the same
NextEra Energy has been one of the best-performing stocks over the last several years because it has consistently grown its earnings. That trend should continue during Q2, barring any unexpected issues with the weather. Meanwhile, the renewable-centric utility should be able to secure and build more wind and solar generating capacity. The company's effective growth strategy makes it an ideal stock to buy and hold for the long haul.
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