Companies and industries we like in energy, utilities, consumer goods, and manufacturing.
By Haywood Kelly, CFA | 01-09-07 | 02:00 PM | Email Article

Energy Sector
The median stock in the energy sector trades right at our fair value estimate.

Haywood Kelly, CFA, is head of global research at Morningstar.

We made several changes to our pricing assumptions in 2006, all of which increased our fair values for the companies affected.

� Natural Gas. In February we raised our midcycle price assumption for the NYMEX Henry Hub benchmark to $5.67 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) from $4. We based our midcycle price decision on several longer-term trends. Unit costs have been on the rise over the past two years, with the higher-cost, marginal producers experiencing the most marked increases in costs. We don't see this trend changing over the next few years, as firms are paying top dollar to acquire new properties, and day rates for rigs are still well above normal. Further, as LNG becomes a larger contributor to supply over the next decade, we expect that it will support our midcycle price. Although LNG could displace high-cost domestic producers, we think that it should improve the reliability of supply--helping to stabilize gas prices near our midcycle price, rather than creating a glut of low-cost gas.

 Manufacturing Super Sector Valuation Measurements--Energy
Segment

Average
Star Rating

Median
Price/Fair Value
Stocks Covered
Pipelines
3.58
0.91
25
Coal
3.30
0.95
10
Oil and Gas
3.03
0.98
70
Oil/Gas Products
2.53
1.08
17
Oil and Gas Services
2.14
1.16
29

 

� Oil. In September we increased our long-run equilibrium oil price assumption to $46 in 2010 from $39. The case for higher industry costs over the next decade has strengthened, and we expect that OPEC's influence will also continue to improve in the years ahead. In particular, the case for OPEC's increased market power appears especially strong. Much of the incremental supply forecast to come online over the next decade or two is likely to come from OPEC countries. With the call on OPEC supply likely to be large, the cartel's influence should expand in the future.

� Pipelines. In December, we lowered our cost-of-equity assumptions for pipelines. To determine the appropriate COE for each company, we started with a baseline COE of 9%, representing our assessment of a "best in class" pipeline operator. From that baseline, we increased our COEs for each company based on the relative stability and quality of its assets and the diversity of its customer base. We also added a small penalty for general partners, recognizing that their inherent leverage increases their risk profile relative to their underlying partnerships. This results in a much more uniform and logical distribution of COEs across our pipeline coverage. Our most stable, strongest companies now carry COEs of 9%-9.25%. Average pipeline companies, which have slightly less attractive asset bases, now carry COEs of 9.5%-9.75%. And we've assigned COEs ranging from 10%-11% to a handful of pipelines with lower-quality assets, small customer bases, or both.

What companies are we bullish on? Large unconventional basins will be a big driver of incremental natural-gas supply in the years ahead, and that's good for  Newfield Exploration  and  Southwestern Energy . We also like  Devon Energy  because of its deep-water fields in the Gulf of Mexico and its reserves in the Barnett Shale. We think liquefied natural gas could play a major role in meeting domestic natural-gas demand over the next several decades. That's why we love  Cheniere , which owns several proposed LNG terminals. Another winner will be  BG Group , whose gas production we forecast to growth 10% annually between 2005 and 2012, and some of that gas will be shipped in LNG form. In the company's LNG business, we're forecasting volume growth of 25%, compounded annually, between 2005 and 2012.

With the change in regulatory scheme for the Canadian income trusts, we expect to see lots of consolidation in Canada, with the big winners being U.S. exploration-and-production firms. One firm we'd highlight is  Quicksilver , one of the fastest-growing producers we cover.

Utilities Sector
Utilities stocks rose sharply in 2006 thanks to low long-term interest rates. Heading into 2007, we think the sector is unattractive, with both natural-gas and electric utilities appearing slightly overvalued. Particularly if we see flat or rising interest rates, we would expect mediocre to poor returns.

 Manufacturing Super Sector Valuation Measurements--Utilities
Segment

Average
Star Rating

Median
Price/Fair Value
Stocks Covered
Water Utilities
3.00
1.05
2
Natural-Gas Utilities
2.81
1.00
18
Electric Utilities
2.70
1.04
64

 

In terms of growth, we expect merchant generators--companies that sell power on the open market, as opposed to the regulated monopolies of the industry--to perform well over the next few years. We see capacity shortfalls on both coasts, which gives merchant generators opportunities for expansion. Among the merchant generators, we like  NRG Energy  (whose recent acquisition of Texas Genco gives it scale advantages over peers) and  Entergy  (whose nuclear plants enjoy an enormous cost advantage over gas-fired plants right now).

We don't expect any major consolidation as a result of the repeal of the Public Utilities Holding Company Act (PUHCA)--at least among the major regulated utilities. We wouldn't be surprised to see some M&A among smaller firms, and merchant generators should continue to both consolidate and attract interest from private equity groups.

Industrial Materials Sector
The industrial materials sector has one of the lowest average star ratings--2.51--among Morningstar's 12 sectors. Partly that's due to our cautious stance on commodity prices in general, which affects many of the companies in the sector, from mining to paper to steel producers.

 Manufacturing Super Sector Valuation Measurements--Industrial Materials
Segment

Average
Star Rating

Median
Price/Fair Value
Stocks Covered
Transport Equipment
4.00
0.80
1
Building Materials
3.60
0.88
5
Machinery
3.30
0.93
10
Diversified
3.14
1.04
7
Agricultural Machinery
3.00
1.06
3
Aluminum
3.00
0.92
5
Steel/Iron
2.95
0.95
22
Metal Products
2.80
1.01
10
Forestry/Wood
2.75
0.89
4
Aerospace and Defense
2.65
1.05
20
Chemicals
2.64
1.08
33
Agriculture
2.50
1.01
4
Electric Equipment
2.50
1.04
24
Auto Parts
2.46
1.04
13
Manufacturing--Misc.
2.33
0.99
3
Office Equipment
2.33
1.00
3
Construction Machinery
2.20
1.01
5
Truck Manufacturers
2.20
1.06
5
Paper
2.15
1.17
13
Mining (Nonferrous and Nonmetals)
2.07
1.19
15
Agrochemical
2.00
1.13
2
Plastics
2.00
1.19
1
Rubber Products
2.00
1.19
3
Gold and Silver
1.30
1.94
20

 

On the bullish side, we would highlight three areas.

Commercial aerospace has been on a tear the past two years. And several factors--including the expected domestic upcycle, booming international growth in air travel, and high oil prices (which are stimulating demand for more-fuel-efficient planes)--suggest that the current cyclical upswing in aerospace demand could continue beyond the end of the decade. One of our favorite aerospace stocks is  Precision Castparts , which sells castings and other parts to airplane makers.

In December, we raised our long-term copper-price assumptions. For example, we now forecast copper prices to be $2 per pound in 2009, up from $0.98 previously. The case for higher industry costs over the next decade has strengthened, and we expect that China's copper appetite will remain high. This means we think copper producers will earn economic rents because of Chinese demand for at least a few more years. The higher price assumptions jacked up our fair value estimates substantially for  Southern Copper  and  Rio Tinto .

In the forestry industry, oriented-strand board (OSB) is replacing plywood; OSB has gone from 0% to 60% market share, in part because it's 15% cheaper. The big winners here are  Louisiana Pacific , which controls 25% of the OSB market, and to a lesser extent  Weyerhaeuser .

Consumer Goods Sector
In terms of valuation, the standout industry in the consumer goods sector is beverage manufacturing. Each of the nine beverage makers we cover has at least a 3-star rating. Among the 4-star stocks are  Coca-Cola ,  PepsiCo , and  Hansen Natural .

 Manufacturing Super Sector Valuation Measurements--Consumer Goods
Segment

Average
Star Rating

Median
Price/Fair Value
Stocks Covered
Beverage Manufacturing
3.56
0.89
9
Textiles
3.50
0.91
2
Shoes
3.33
0.92
6
Recreation
3.20
0.94
10
Alcoholic Drinks
3.14
0.97
7
Audio/Video Equipment
3.00
0.97
4
Jewelry/Accessories
3.00
1.07
4
Paints/Coatings
3.00
1.02
1
Household and Personal Products
2.81
1.04
16
Tobacco
2.71
1.04
7
Food Manufacturing
2.61
1.03
28
Photography and Imaging
2.25
1.13
4
Automakers
2.14
1.20
7
Apparel Manufacturers
2.00
1.29
11
Appliance/Furniture Manufacturers
2.00
1.18
6
Packaging
2.00
1.17
4

 

We also expect several firms in the jewelry/accessories industry to do well, including  Coach , Tiffany , and Blue Nile . In the recreation industry, we're bullish on the cruise lines  Carnival  and  Royal Caribbean Cruises , which both benefit from an older demographic.

For automakers, we expect that global growth will accelerate--particularly in Asia--but that the main beneficiaries will be auto-parts makers. We're fairly bearish on the automakers. For  General Motors , we expect flat sales, operating losses, and massive restructuring charges for the next two years followed by a slow recovery to a smaller but profitable company. For  Ford , we expect average annual growth in the auto business of less than 2% over the next five years and average operating margins below 2%. We're much more bullish on  Toyota . We think it will be able to increase revenues by about 7% annually over the next five years, and we expect operating margins to average about 9% thanks to the introduction of innovative products and a continued focus on costs.

Also see:
Services Super Sector
Information Super Sector

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Haywood Kelly, CFA has a position in the following securities mentioned above: TIF Find out about Morningstar's editorial policies.
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