Energy infrastructure like The Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB) and competitors such as Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMI) and Enbridge (NYSE: ENB) are coming into focus now that energy prices have peaked. While the price of natural gas is expected to remain high, the driving force for the energy market will be volume and that’s what will drive results for these companies. The outlook for natural gas demand is favorable for volume irrespective of the price, which means steady growth for the pipeline and storage operators. In regard to natural gas prices, the price has peaked but it is not expected to fall significantly from its new levels. At best, natural gas will move within a range near the recently set highs and drive YOY margin improvement for the next 2-3 quarters.
The Williams Companies Is On Track For Dividend Increases
“With the strong outlook for global natural gas demand and the growing need for secure and reliable supplies amid geopolitical volatility and climate concerns, Williams is well positioned to create long-term shareholder value,” says The Williams Companies CEO Alan Armstrong.
The Williams Companies Grows, Widens Margin
The Williams Companies produced a good quarter driven by higher commodity pricing, volume, and acquisitions completed during the quarter. The company reported $2.49 million in net revenue for a gain of 9.2% over last year that beating the consensus by 200 basis points. The gains were strongest in the Northeast G&P and West segments, but the core Gulf & Transmission segment still posted growth. In regard to margin, the company improved the adjusted EBITDA by 14% versus the 9.2% gain in revenue, and the bottom line gains were even better. On the bottom line, the $0.33 in GAAP EPS is up 32% versus last year while the adjusted $0.40 is up 48% and beat the Marketbeat.com consensus by $0.03.
The guidance is just as favorable to the long-term trend, but it did not provide a catalyst for higher share prices when it was released. The company raised its guidance for FY adjusted EBITDA by 7.7% at the midpoint of the range which puts it in line with the analyst's consensus. The takeaway, however, is that earnings and cash flow are strong enough that the company was able to improve its leverage and coverage ratios, and additional improvement is expected. The leverage ratio fell below 3.0% while coverage is exceeding 2X, and both suggest another dividend increase is coming at the end of the year.
The Downside To Owning The Williams Companies
As strong a company and dividend payment as The Williams Companies is the 4.91% yield isn’t as attractive as the 6.% you can get with Enbridge or Kinder Morgan, and Kinder Morgan, at least, offers some value as well. The Williams Companies, with its strong and strengthening balance sheet trades at roughly 22X its earnings compared to only 24X for Enbridge and only 15X for Kinder-Morgan. The difference, however, is The Williams Companies is on track to raise its dividend sooner than Kinder-Morgan and may make up the difference. In the case of Enbridge, its dividend policy makes the payout a little erratic in its amount, although the amount is trending higher on a YOY basis.
The Technical Outlook: The Williams Companies Falls To Support
The Williams Companies began a reversal more than a month ago that appeared to hold up following results from KMI and ENB. The price action is down, however, in the wake of Williams’ own results but this may be a viable entry point assuming the market holds up at this level. Price action fell to support near the short-term moving average, and support appears to be present, so a bounce could ensue. If not, this stock could fall below support at $32.00 and move back down to the $30 level, where it is a better value and a higher yield.