Why Is American Water Works (AWK) Down 4.7% Since Last Earnings Report?

A month has gone by since the last earnings report for American Water Works (AWK). Shares have lost about 4.7% in that time frame, underperforming the S&P 500.

Will the recent negative trend continue leading up to its next earnings release, or is American Water Works due for a breakout? Before we dive into how investors and analysts have reacted as of late, let's take a quick look at its most recent earnings report in order to get a better handle on the important drivers.

American Water Q4 Earnings Beat Estimates, '24 View Up

American Water Works Company posted fourth-quarter 2023 operating earnings per share (EPS) of 88 cents, which surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 84 cents by 4.8%. The bottom line improved 8.6% from the year-ago quarter's earnings of 81 cents.

The company's 2023 EPS was $4.90, up 8.6% from $4.51 reported in 2022.  The year-over-year improvement in earnings was due to favorable impacts of the implementation of new rates in Regulated businesses, offset somewhat by increased operating costs. The results were better than the 2023 EPS guidance of $4.72-$4.82.

Total Revenues

Total quarterly revenues of $1.03 billion surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $0.96 billion by 7.6%. The top line increased 10.8% from the year-ago figure of $0.9 billion.

American Water’s 2023 revenues of $4.2 billion were up 11.7% from $3.8 billion in 2022.

Segmental Details

Regulated businesses’ revenues in 2023 were $3.9 billion, up 11.8% year over year. The uptick was due to completed general rate cases and infrastructure proceedings for the recovery of incremental capital and acquisition investments.

Other revenues in 2023 were $314 million compared with $287 million in the previous year.

Highlights of the Release

Total operating expenses for the fourth quarter were $733 million, up 9.4% from the year-ago quarter’s $670 million due to an increase in operating and maintenance expenses.

The operating income was $299 million, up 14.6% from the year-ago figure of $261 million. The actual operating income was better than our model’s projection of $285 million.

American Water continues to expand operations through acquisitions and organic means. Through 23 closed acquisitions in eight states, it added 18,100 customers to its base as of Dec 31, 2023. AWK’s 25 pending acquisitions (as of Dec 31), when completed, will add another 88,1300 customers.

In 2023, the company has been authorized additional annualized revenues of $359 million from rate increases. Further, $31 million of additional annualized revenues from infrastructure charges have been authorized and are effective since 2023-end. Currently, the rate request pending amounts to $670 million.

Financial Highlights

Cash and cash equivalents amounted to $330 million as of Dec 31, 2023, compared with $85 million as of Dec 31, 2022.

The total long-term debt was $11.7 billion as of Dec 31, 2023, up 7.2% from $10.9 billion as of Dec 31, 2022.

During 2023, cash flow from operating activities was $1.87 billion compared with $1.1 billion a year ago.

Guidance

American Water raised 2024 EPS guidance to a range of $5.20-$5.30 from the previous expectation of $5.10-$5.20.  The Zacks Consensus Estimate of $5.17 is lower than $5.25, the midpoint of the company’s guided range. AWK reiterated long-term earnings and dividend growth in the range of 7-9%.

The company plans to invest nearly $3.1 billion across its footprint in 2024. Further, it intends to invest in the range of $16-$17 billion and $34-$38 billion in the 2024-2028 and 2024-2033 periods, respectively.

How Have Estimates Been Moving Since Then?

It turns out, fresh estimates have trended upward during the past month.

VGM Scores

Currently, American Water Works has a subpar Growth Score of D, however its Momentum Score is doing a lot better with a B. However, the stock was allocated a grade of D on the value side, putting it in the bottom 40% for this investment strategy.

Overall, the stock has an aggregate VGM Score of D. If you aren't focused on one strategy, this score is the one you should be interested in.

Outlook

Estimates have been trending upward for the stock, and the magnitude of these revisions looks promising. It comes with little surprise American Water Works has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). We expect an above average return from the stock in the next few months.

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American Water Works Company, Inc. (AWK) : Free Stock Analysis Report

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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