National Grid (LSE: NG) (NYSE: NGG.US) is a core FTSE 100 holding in the portfolios of many investors — and rightly so, in my view — but it could be worth considering adding smaller companies Jersey Electricity (LSE: JEL) and OPG Power Ventures (LSE: OPG) to reduce company-specific risk, increase geographical diversification and inject a bit of spicy growth.
National Grid runs Britain’s essential gas and electricity networks. Regulators set the company’s investment, pricing and returns parameters for long periods ahead. This gives management good visibility on the future, enabling long-term planning, and making for a very stable business. The company also has some geographical diversification, with energy businesses in the northeastern US.
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As a lower-risk equity investment, National Grid is ideal for a core blue-chip holding in a shares portfolio. What’s more, now could be a good time to buy, because the shares are trading not far off their 52-week low and some 14% below their high.
Analyst forecasts put National Grid on a 12-month forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 14.1, with a prospective dividend yield of 5.3%. The P/E is in line with the FTSE 100 long-term average, which is a generous rating for a stable, premium business. The yield is also generous, particularly as it comes with a boardroom policy to increase the dividend each year at least in line with RPI inflation for the foreseeable future.
Jersey Electricity was founded in 1924 and floated on the London stock market in 1964. The company is the sole supplier of electricity in Jersey, via interconnectors from France and some on-island generation. The company also runs the Channel Islands Electricity Grid in partnership with Guernsey Electricity.
Jersey Electricity is 62%-owned by the States of Jersey (the government), but the company is largely left to get on with the business of balancing the needs of the island and shareholders. Shareholders have seen an annualised total return (capital and dividends) of 10.1% over the past 10 years, which is ahead of National Grid’s 9.5%.
Although a smaller company than National Grid, Jersey Electricity nevertheless enjoys a low-risk monopoly position in its territory. The shares are currently trading at an all-time high, giving a forward P/E of 16.2 and a yield of 3%. While long-term investors could still see a decent return from current levels, I would be tempted to wait/hope for a dip in the price to add some useful satellite geographical diversification to a core National Grid shareholding.
OPG Power Ventures
OPG Power Ventures joined London’s junior AIM market in 2008. The company was founded to develop and operate power plants in India, after a 2003 liberalising act of parliament opened up the industry to private investment for the first time since 1948.
OPG has delivered compound annual earnings growth of over 40% over the last three years, and analysts have pencilled in more of the same for the next two years. More importantly, after heavy investment, OPG has now built sufficient scale to start generating cash flows (and dividends), which means the company is a less risky investment than in the early days — although this rupee-earner is by no means low risk.
Nevertheless, a small investment in the company would add geographical diversification and a bit of spicy growth potential to the power sector of an investor’s portfolio. A current-year forecast P/E of 14.8 falls to 10.3 next year, giving very attractive price-to-earnings growth (PEG) readouts of 0.3 and 0.2. Dividends could also grow fast from a symbolic maiden payout expected this year.