Xcel Energy’s fourth-quarter profits rose 35% and beat Wall Street forecasts, aided by rate increases in several states.
Fourth-quarter results released Thursday capped a strong year for the Minneapolis-based electric and gas company.
“2019 was an excellent year with a long and impressive list of accomplishments,” CEO Ben Fowke told stock analysts in a webcast. Xcel met or exceeded its profit guidance for 15 consecutive years and raised its dividend for the 16th year in a row. And the company’s stock has hit new highs, he said.
Xcel shares closed at an all-time high Thursday of $68.76, up 2%.
The company posted fourth-quarter earnings of $292 million, or 56 cents per share, up from $215 million or 42 cents per share during the same time a year ago. Xcel recorded fourth-quarter revenue of $2.8 billion, down from $2.9 billion a year ago and below analysts’ expectations of around $3.05 billion.
For all of 2019, Xcel sported ongoing earnings of $2.64 per share, up from $2.47 in 2018, a 7% increase.
Higher electric and natural gas profit margins, primarily due to rate increases, added 37 cents per share in 2019, said a report Thursday by Travis Miller, a stock analyst at Morningstar. “We expect similar growth in 2020,” he wrote.
Rate increases tied to Xcel’s capital investments remain the company’s “key earnings driver” this year. Still, “regulatory risk remains high as Xcel seeks rate increases to cover its investments,” Miller wrote.
The company is forecasting that its utility-earned return on equity will drop below 9% in 2020 from 9.1% after Colorado regulators cut Xcel’s allowed returns, Miller noted.
Xcel’s largest markets are Minnesota and Colorado, while the company also has operations in New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, the Dakotas and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Xcel is Minnesota’s largest electric utility and its second-largest gas utility.
Xcel Thursday reaffirmed its guidance for 2020, forecasting profits in a range of $2.73 to $2.83 per share and continued long-term annual earnings growth of 5% to 7%. Fowke told analysts he expected Xcel to perform on the “upper end” of that earnings growth target.