MDU Resources: Customer Growth Highest in the Industry

by Investing Daily
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By: Roger Conrad

MDU Resources (NYSE: MDU) generates a third of its earnings from oil and gas production. The focus is output from 124,000 acres in the Bakken region, supplemented by properties in the Heath Shale (Montana), Paradox (Utah) and Niobrara (Wyoming) formations.

Management is targeting a 20 percent to 30 percent boost in oil output for 2012.

Construction services and materials production contribute about a quarter of profit. The recession hit this business particularly hard, but it’s recovering thanks to the need for infrastructure to support drilling in the Bakken.

Regulated gas, electric and pipeline services generated the rest of the company’s income. The utilities serve nearly a million customers, stretching across the northern tier of the US, also with a special focus on the surging Bakken.

Customer growth of 5 percent is the highest in the industry, and investment is reliably recovered in rate base, thanks to positive regulatory relations.

The aggregate is a company with immense regional and energy business expertise and $3.7 billion in earnings-boosting capital projects planned for the next five years.

And it’s backed by one of the industry’s lowest debt-to-capital ratios, just 34 percent.

Notable headwinds this year include weak natural gas prices, mild winter weather and weak demand for construction materials. But with first-quarter 2012 results coming in on the high end of guidance, full-year projections of $1 to $1.25 per share look conservative, management’s long-term earnings growth target of 7 percent to 10 percent secure.

MDU Resources remains a top growth stock of mine.

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