Tom Konrad CFA
Ten Clean Energy Stocks for 2015
model portfolio had a good
May, despite headwinds from the strengthening dollar and declines in
clean energy stocks in general. As a whole, the model
portfolio rose 2.2% for the month, the same as my broad market
benchmark. In general, clean energy stocks did worse, with the
Powershares Wilderhill Clean Energy ETF (PBW
down 1.9% for the month. The portfolios clean energy
benchmark, which blends PBW with the more income oriented Utility
ETF, JXI, was flat.
For the year to date, the portfolio is up 7.4%, ahead of all its
benchmarks for the first time this year. Their YTD returns
were 3.9% for IWM, 7.2% for PBW, 1.4% for the blended benchmark, and
-2.5% for JXI.
Income Portfolio Performance and New Benchmark: YLCO
The six-stock income oriented sub-portfolio continues to shine, up
1.9% for the month and 16.5% YTD. The fossil fuel free income
oriented portfolio I manage with Green Alpha Advisors, GAGEIP
also continues to do well. It is up 1.5% for the month and
The benchmark for these income portfolios is JXI (up 1.2% for May
and down 2.5% YTD), but as I discussed in previous articles, it is
an unsatisfactory benchmark because it lacks a clean energy
focus. That changed on May 28th, with the launch of the Global X YieldCo Index ETF
which focuses on global income-producing clean energy power
producers that pay high dividends. Three of YLCO's 20 holdings
are also in this portfolio TransAlta Renewables Inc. (TSX:RNW
OTC:TRSWF), (Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure (NYSE:HASI
and Capstone Infrastructure Corp (TSX:CSE
OTC:MCQPF), but they comprise only 9.2% of YLCO compared to half of
the income stocks in my model portfolio.
One of the most important functions of a benchmark is to
indicate what part of a portfolio's return is due to stock
selection, as opposed to sector and overall stock market
performance. Hence, YLCO is a much better benchmark for a
clean energy income portfolio than JXI because it is also focused on
income producing clean energy stocks. Going forward, I intend
to add YLCO as in income benchmark, and substitute it for JXI in the
blended clean energy benchmark for the whole portfolio.
I will back-fill performance data for YLCO using JXI for the first
five months of the year unless I am able to obtain historical
performance information from its underlying Indxx Global YieldCo
Value/Growth Portfolio Performance
The four stock value and growth sub-portfolio gained 2.6%
for the month, and now is down 6.2% for the year. This remains
far behind its benchmark, PBW, which fell 1.9% for the month but is
up 7.2% year to date.
The chart below (click for larger version) gives details of
individual stock performance, followed by a discussion of the
month's news for each stock.
The low and high targets given below are my estimates of the range
within which I expected each stock to finish 2015 when I compiled
the list at the end of 2014.
1. Hannon Armstrong
Sustainable Infrastructure (NYSE:HASI).
12/31/2014 Price: $14.23. Annual Dividend: $1.04.
Beta: 0.81. Low Target: $13.50. High Target: $17.
5/29/2015 Price: $20.48. YTD Dividend: $0.52
YTD Total Return: 47.6%.
Sustainable infrastructure financier and Real Estate
Investment Trust Hannon Armstrong continues to go from strength to
strength. The company released first quarter earnings in
line with its previous guidance, growing Core Earnings by 35% over
the previous year.
Although I don't consider HASI overvalued at current prices, I
have been selling in my own and managed portfolios for
re-balancing. As I wrote many times in 2013 and 2014, I felt
it was extremely undervalued in the $10-$13 range in 2013 and
2014. It was my largest position at the start of the year.
Now that it's up almost 50% and more fairly valued, I'm selling to
bring it back in line with the rest of my holdings.
Long-time readers who also acquired large stakes below $13 should
also consider taking some profits.
The company released
its annual Sustainability Report Card. The company
estimates "that assets financed by Hannon Armstrong in 2014 will
reduce emissions by more than 340,577 metric tons of GHG per year,
equivalent to more than 165,000 tons of coal, and save more than
145 million gallons of water annually." That's one annual
metric ton of GHG saved for every 96 HASI shares, one annual ton
of coal saved per 197 HASI shares, and 4.5 annual gallons of water
saved per HASI share.
Cable Corp. (NYSE:BGC)
12/31/2014 Price: $14.90. Annual Dividend:
$0.72. Beta: 1.54. Low Target: $10. High
5/29/2015 Price: $18.89. YTD Dividend: $0. YTD
Total Return: 26.8%.
International manufacturer of electrical and fiber optic cable
General Cable Corp. reported strong first quarter results.
After adjusting for the sale of some divisions, revenue was up a
modest 3% over the same quarter a year earlier, but net profit
more than doubled. The company attributes the strength to
its restructuring efforts, careful management of working capital,
and strong demand for submarine products in Europe.
The company will pay a quarterly dividend of $0.18 on June 26th.
Renewables Inc. (TSX:RNW,
12/31/2014 Price: C$11.48. Annual Dividend:
C$0.84. Low Target: C$10. High Target: C$15.
5/29/2015 Price: C$12.65. YTD Dividend: C$0.32 YTD
Total C$ Return: 13.0%. YTD Total US$ Return: 5.3%.
Yieldco TransAlta Renewables did not advance as much as I
expected after increasing its monthly dividend to 7 Canadian
cents. I believe its failure to advance was due to rising
interest rate expectations in Canada. Rising interest rate
expectations tend to hurt all income investments, including
I continue to consider TransAlta Renewables to be very
attractively valued at the current price, but no longer like the
company as much from an environmental perspective. The
acquisition of four natural gas pipelines and a natural gas power
station which is currently under development has made TransAlta a
lot less "Renewable". When the gas power station is
commissioned, approximately a third of the yieldco's assets will
be transportation or electricity generation from natural
I am currently holding my positions in the company, but intend to
sell when the stock is no longer so undervalued.
Capstone Infrastructure Corp (TSX:CSE.
12/31/2014 Price: C$3.20. Annual Dividend
C$0.30. Low Target: C$3. High Target: C$5.
5/29/2015 Price: C$3.13. YTD Dividend: C$0.15
YTD Total C$ Return: 2.5%. YTD Total US$
Canadian power producer and developer (yieldco) Capstone
Infrastructure suffered from the same Canadian interest rate
expectations as TransAlta Renewables, but did not have a dividend
increase to offset that effect.
Revenues fell by 21%, and Adjusted Funds From Operations (AFFO) fell
by two-thirds mainly because of the new power contract at Capstone's
Cardinal facility offset by newly commissioned wind farms. The
company maintained its full year forecast.
important because it is management's estimate of how much money they
have available to pay dividends.
In 2013, before the agreement was signed, I made some
about its effect on 2015 AFFO.
The actual contract was essentially in line with my lowest estimate,
which I predicted would result in a 2015 approximately C$21 million
AFFO. First quarter AFFO was C$6.5 million, easily on track to
exceed my low prediction, especially with the addition of the Goulais
which was commissioned in May and will be
contributing to results for the rest of the year.
At the current rate, 2015 dividends are likely to be a little above
AFFO, but I expect the dividend to be maintained, despite the fact
that the market seems to be pricing in a dividend cut. (The
current dividend yield is 9.6%, many analysts feel that anything
above 8% indicates expectations for a cut.)
I believe a cut is unlikely for several reasons, starting with
company insider's confidence in the stock. Management has
repeatedly said that they intend to maintain the dividend, and they
have been buying shares in the public market and not selling any of
the shares they receive as part of their compensation. Company
insiders would not be buying the stock if they thought there was any
likelihood of a dividend cut.
Second, while 2015 AFFO could easily fall below dividends paid,
there are many reasons to expect that 2016 will be a much better
year. Capstones' development projects will continue to add
incremental AFFO, and more importantly, two more of Ontario's
nuclear reactors will begin refurbishment next year. This this
will reduce overall electricity supply and likely lead to periods of
higher electricity prices and increased profits at Cardinal.
These increased profits will provide extra AFFO to maintain the
dividend as Capstone's development projects are commissioned and
increase long run AFFO.
New Flyer Industries (TSX:NFI,
12/31/2014 Price: C$13.48. Annual
Dividend: C$0.62. Low Target: C$10. High
5/29/2015 Price: C$15.60. YTD
Dividend: C$0.25 YTD Total C$ Return:
17.6%. YTD Total US$ Return: 9.6%.
Leading North American bus manufacturer New Flyer also suffered
from increasing Canadian interest rate expectations, but these
were more than offset when the company announced a surprise
dividend increase in conjunction with its first quarter
As I'd previously discussed, I was expecting a dividend increase
towards the end of the year. From the discussion in the conference
call, I get the impression that this will likely be the
first of many dividend increases in coming years. New
Flyer's CEO, Paul Soubry, stated "We are not going to disclose our
exact formulas and methodologies, but I can tell you that we are
now in a methodology of a regular review" of the dividend.
This means that as long as the company's financial performance
continues to improve, some of that improvement will flow through
to shareholders in the form of increased dividends.
Investors tend to value growing dividends highly, often much more
highly than stable dividends. If I am right that his is just
the first of many dividend increases, I would expect New Flyer's
stock to increase even more rapidly than the dividend.
12/31/2014 Price: €13.60. Annual Dividend:
€0.61. Low Target: €12.
High Target: €20.
5/29/2015 Price: €16.66.
YTD Dividend: €0.61 YTD
Total € Return: 27.0%. YTD
Total US$ Return: 14.5%.
Bicycle manufacturer Accell Group did not report any significant
news in May, although there was an interesting article
about Accell's leadership in the new and growing category of
speed e-bikes in its home country of the Netherlands.
12/31/2014 Price: $13.02. Annual Dividend:
$0.24. Beta 0.36. Low Target: $10. High
5/29/2015 Price: $12.00 YTD Dividend: $0.06.
YTD Total Return: -7.4%.
Ethanol producers are again up
in arms about proposed cuts to biofuels mandates in the
EPA's proposed 2014-2016 targets, but renewable diesel producers
such as FutureFuel would be "reasonably OK with it," according to
Jim Lane, publisher of Biofuels
Digest. Given how bad the EPA's track record over the
last couple years has been, that's a ringing endorsement.
FutureFuel has not released a statement on the proposal, but
Renewable Energy Group's statement
gives some insight. "We are positive about today’s EPA
announcement related to proposed biomass-based diesel volumes for
2014-2017 and overall advanced biofuels for 2014-2016. This
proposal reduces uncertainty and points towards continuing growth
for the near future and beyond. ... This is a significant
improvement over the original 1.28 billion gallon 2014
[biomass-based diesel] proposal."
The news came out on Friday, and FutureFuel and a more pure-play
biodiesel producer, Renewable Energy Group (NASD:REGI)
I also follow were both up on the news, by 3% and 4%. I
expect them to climb further next week as the market digests the
8. Power REIT (NYSE:PW).
12/31/2014 Price: $8.35. Annual
Dividend: $0. Beta: 0.52. Low
Target: $5. High Target: $20.
5/29/2015 Price: $5.03. YTD Total Return: -39.8%.
Solar and rail Real Estate Investment Trust Power REIT's stock
continued to decline in the wake of the negative summary judgement I
wrote about last month. This decline was partly due to the
fact that the few outstanding issues in the case were not resolved,
and so the case will go to trial in August.
Most of the legal work on both sides has already been done, so I
don't expect legal expenses to balloon again, and I expect that,
even if Power REIT appeals the ruling, it will only do so if
expenses can be contained. Hence I maintain my expectation
that the dividend will be resumed before the end of 2016, and think
the stock will again be a good buy if it falls substantially below
9. Ameresco, Inc.
12/31/2014 Price: $7.00. Annual
Dividend: $0. Beta: 1.36. Low
Target: $6. High Target: $16.
5/29/2015 Price: $7.26. YTD Total Return: 3.7%.
Energy service contractor Ameresco released strong first quarter
earnings, again beating analyst estimates for the third quarter in
a row. The company continues to see recovery, especially in
the Federal market. Ameresco is also reducing its risk
profile by developing renewable assets which it keeps on its
books. The resulting depreciation reduces income in the
short term, but leads to long term stable income streams.
These positive developments have not yet drawn significant
investor attention and the stock price remains low. Company
insiders, on the other hand, are taking advantage by continuing to
add to their positions. Four different insiders have bought
a total of 265,000 shares over the last three months.
10. MiX Telematics
12/31/2014 Price: $6.50. Annual
Dividend: $0. Beta:
0.78. Low Target: $5. High Target: $20.
5/29/2015 Price: $7.70. YTD Dividend: $0. YTD
Total South African Rand Return: 27.0%. YTD Total
US$ Return: 18.5%.
Vehicle and fleet management software-as-a-service provider MiX
Telematics also announced quarterly results on Thursday, as well as
annual results for its fiscal year, which ends on March 31st.
The company resoundingly beat the consensus earnings estimate (14¢
vs. 7¢ per share) and was very upbeat about its opportunities in the
North American market.
The stock has rallied strongly since the announcement, but given its
massive undervaluation, I think there is still plenty of room to the
Predictions for June
Last month, I thought TransAlta Renewables and MiX Telematics had
the best chance of short term gains. TransAlta's dividend
increase produced only a small (2%) advance in Canadian dollar
terms, but this was wiped out by the strong US dollar, leading to a
small loss of 1.2% since last month. MiX's strong earnings, on
the other hand, helped to push its stock up 12.3% in terms of the
South African Rand, which was reduced to 10% for US investors
because of the strong dollar.
So my perfect track record of predicting five out of five monthly
winners in previous updates was broken by TransAlta's slight
decline. The record is now 6 out of 7. But given that
MiX's advance was much larger than TransAlta's decline, I'm happy
with the result and willing to stick my neck out again.
I don't expect much news as we move into the slow summer months, so
price moves should be driven mostly by valuation. I'm quite
bullish on all four of TransAlta, Capstone, FutureFuel, and MiX
right now, but given MiX's recent advance, I think that it may give
back some gains in the short term. Hence I'm going to limit my
prediction for June advances to just the first three: TRSWF, MCQPF,
Disclosure: Long HASI, CSE/MCQPF, ACCEL/ACGPF, NFI/NFYEF, AMRC,
MIXT, PW, PW-PA, FF, BGC, RNW/TRSWF, REGI. I am the
co-manager of the GAGEIP strategy.
DISCLAIMER: Past performance is
not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results.
This article contains the current opinions of the author and
such opinions are subject to change without notice. This
article has been distributed for informational purposes only.
Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein
should not be considered as investment advice or a
recommendation of any particular security, strategy or
investment product. Information contained herein has been
obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not