HomeInvestingThe United Utilities share price is recovering after mixed earnings report and...

The United Utilities share price is recovering after mixed earnings report and sewage spill

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The United Utilities (LSE: UU.) share value is recovering this afternoon after shedding 3% this morning following a combined earnings report. It has regained 2% to achieve £11.03 after falling to £10.79. Over the previous 30 days, nevertheless, it’s nonetheless up by 10%.

Regardless of the early dip, the 2023 full-year earnings report revealed some respectable progress and development on sure metrics. Income is up 8.3% to £1.95bn in comparison with £1.8bn final yr, resulting in a dividend improve of 9.4%.

On the announcement, CEO Louise Beardmore mentioned the corporate has met or exceeded round 80% of its regulatory targets. “Our funds are strong with one of many lowest ranges of gearing within the sector“, she mentioned.

So what’s that scent?

For these dwelling within the Windermere space of the Lake District, some could also be asking why the early summer time air smells a bit miffy. That’s the lingering stench of sewage that spilt into the lake following a fault on the Bownes-on-Windermere pumping station in February.

The spill was allegedly attributable to an surprising fault in a telecoms community that affected a backup system.

On this morning’s outcomes, United Utilities introduced £400m price of funding to keep away from future spills. Nevertheless, it could nonetheless face authorized motion from the Atmosphere Company. The spill and subsequent funding have been partly liable for a 51% fall in pre-tax revenue, down from £256m to £170m this yr.

Robust dividend payer

Regardless of the controversy, United has been delivering acceptable returns for shareholders. Previously yr, it has returned 4.6%. That’s a good bit increased than the general UK Water Utilities market which fell 3.9%. Previously 5 years, the share value is up 41% with constant dividends steadily growing for 10 years.

Unbiased analysts forecast the corporate’s earnings to develop at a price of 38% going ahead, predicting a future return on fairness (ROE) of 19.8%. By comparability, fellow water works firm Severn Trent‘s earnings are solely anticipated to develop at a price of 24.6%. It’s additionally had a far worse yr than United, with the share value down 10% since final Might.

Total, the UK water utilities business seems to be struggling for the time being however United could also be doing higher than others. Nevertheless, is it sufficient to save lots of its strained steadiness sheet?

The debt monster

United Utilities has £9.1bn in debt shored up by solely £2.17bn in fairness and short-term money of £828m. That leaves it with a really excessive debt-to-equity ratio of 417% and just one.8 instances curiosity protection. I’d say this makes it a dangerous funding, as there seems to be a excessive risk of economic troubles if issues don’t enhance quickly.

The scenario additionally will increase the probability of dividends being lower, decreasing one of many inventory’s key worth propositions.

There does appear to be some enhancements occurring at United however any additional environmental accidents may spell disaster for the corporate. It doesn’t seem to have the capital to maintain patching up incidents with the promise of funding, so it’ll must function extra rigorously. Whereas the dividend is enticing, I imagine the dangers posed by the corporate’s debt scenario overshadow it.


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