Utilities May Seem Boring, but Fortis Inc. Is Definitely Not

When I first started paying serious attention to what types of stocks to own, I remember reading somewhere that utilities were not really worth the investment because their growth prospects were not significant and I could do better deploying my money elsewhere. And in many instances, that was true.

However, Fortis Inc.  (TSX:FTS) found a way around that boring persona and has made it possible for investors to experience growth while owning a very secure utility. Essentially, Fortis has been buying up other large utilities, so it can spread its operations across more of North America. And with 26% of its assets in natural gas, 70% in electricity, and 4% in hydroelectric generation, Fortis has the expertise to run a wide variety of utilities.

In 2013, Fortis acquired UNS Energy out of Arizona, paying US$4.5 billion for the company. That gave it access to 654,000 electricity and gas customers, which is significant because these customers don’t ever leave. Then Fortis announced that it was acquiring ITC Holdings Corp., the largest pure-play transmission company in the United States, for US$11.3 billion.

ITC has high-voltage transmission facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Its peak load provides 26,000 megawatts along 15,600 miles of transmission line. This is a big acquisition. But Fortis is excited about it and believes that in the first year the acquisition could provide a 5% accretion to earnings.

What all this means is very simple … Fortis is buying up other large companies, so it can become one of the juggernauts in the utility business. It’s growing through acquisition. But that growth is useless if investors don’t get anything out of it.

Fortunately, they do…

Fortis pays an incredibly lucrative yield of 3.66%, which comes out to $0.375 per share a quarter. While I really enjoy the idea of receiving $1.50 a year per share, if it were to never grow along with the company, I would be a little disappointed. The good news is, Fortis has increased the dividend every year for 43 years. For example, the dividend was hiked by 10.3% in September 2015.

Here’s where it gets better. Management plans to increase the dividend by at least 6% every year until 2020. With a dividend-growth company like Fortis, 2020 won’t be the end of increases so long as the company continues to earn more money.

If we look at the ITC Holdings deal, a 5% accretion to earnings makes it very possible to increase the dividend at least by that much, not counting any growth from Fortis’s current properties. So I definitely expect the dividend to grow consistently.

All in all, Fortis is in a boring industry–but it isn’t acting boring at all. It has bought competitors in different parts of North America, and when the ITC deal goes down, it will be one of the top 15 utility companies in North America. If you ask me, that makes it a worthy consideration for any portfolio, but in particular, it’s worth looking at if you want stable income while also seeing growth along the way.

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Fool contributor Jacob Donnelly has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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