United Utilities Stock Remains Overvalued

United Utilities shares are currently overvalued, say analysts, who believe the company has no sustainable competitive advantage over peers

Tancrede Fulop 22 November, 2018 | 7:21AM
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Equity analysts are reaffirming their £7 a share fair value estimate for United Utilities (UU.), after the firm released half-year results. Shares are currently overvalued, and we believe the utility company has no economic moat, or sustainable competitive advantage over peers.

Underlying operating profit increased by 7% to £368 million, above our 3.9% full-year estimate. The key driver was increased regulatory revenue partly offset by an £11 million increase in infrastructure renewal expenditure.

Reported operating profit was flattish due to the negative impact of extreme hot and dry weather. Underlying profit after tax grew 23% to £197 million, well above our 4% full-year estimate. In addition to the increase in operating profit, net income was boosted by a £24 million decrease in underlying net finance expense due to the impact of lower inflation on index-linked debt, in line with the guidance of late September's trading statement.

Last but not least, net income was supported by a 3% tax rate, well below the 11% normal rate. This is due to the phasing of quarterly tax payments as payments of the first half are based on last year's lower profits. For the full year, the group guides for an effective cash tax rate of 6% below our 12%. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, the group guides for a tax rate of 20%, versus our 12%, reflecting tax payments for six quarters due to the transition to a new tax payment regime where there will be no more time lag.

Altogether, we will increase our 2018-19 underlying net income on lower financial charges, tax rate, and higher increase in underlying operating profits and will lower our 2019/20 estimate on higher tax rate. The impact of these changes on subsequent years' earnings and on valuation will be limited.

We anticipate a 21% drop in 2021 net income owing to the cut in allowed returns in the new regulatory regime, in line with Ofwat's final methodology for the 2019 price review.

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security NamePriceChange (%)Morningstar
United Utilities Group PLC Class A990.80 GBX0.92Rating

About Author

Tancrede Fulop  is an Equity Analyst for Morningstar


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