Why Is Southern Co. (SO) Up 0.6% Since Last Earnings Report?

A month has gone by since the last earnings report for Southern Co. (SO). Shares have added about 0.6% in that time frame, underperforming the S&P 500.

Will the recent positive trend continue leading up to its next earnings release, or is Southern Co. due for a pullback? 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 catalysts.

Southern Company Q1 Earnings Beat Estimates, Sales Miss Mark

Power supplier Southern Company reported first-quarter 2020 earnings per share (excluding certain one-time items) of 78 cents, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 72 cents and the year-ago profit of 70 cents. The robust performance primarily stemmed from positive effects of rates, usage and pricing changes.

However, the Atlanta-based utility’s quarterly revenue – at $5 billion – missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $5.6 billion and was 7.3% lower than first-quarter 2019 sales on account of adverse weather impact.

The company, which gave an EPS guidance of 65 cents for the second quarter, further updated that its long-term outlook will not be materially affected by the coronavirus outbreak. While the pandemic is set to reduce the demand for commercial and industrial demand due to widespread lockdowns and social distancing, residential consumption will see an uptick in consumption.

Vogtle Updates

Per Southern Company’s latest earnings presentation, it continues to progress toward completing the Units 3 and 4 of the Vogtle nuclear project by the November 2021 and November 2022 regulatory approved in-service dates. The utility also expects no change in the project’s total estimated costs.

Overall Sales Breakup

Southern Company’s wholesale power sales decreased 5.4%. There was also a slight fall in retail electricity demand.

Consequently, there was a downward movement in overall electricity sales and usage. In fact, total electricity sales during the first quarter were down 2% from the same period last year.

Southern Company’s total retail sales edged down 0.9%, with residential and commercial sales going down by 0.3% and 0.4%, respectively. Moreover, industrial sales declined 1.8%.

Expenses Summary

The power supplier’s operations and maintenance cost was down 1.4% to $1.3 billion, but the utility’s total operating expense for the period – at $3.6 billion – more than doubled from the prior-year level. The surge was primarily on account of the absence of gain on asset sales.

How Have Estimates Been Moving Since Then?

In the past month, investors have witnessed a downward trend in fresh estimates. The consensus estimate has shifted -6.5% due to these changes.

VGM Scores

At this time, Southern Co. has a subpar Growth Score of D, however its Momentum Score is doing a bit better with a C. Following the exact same course, the stock was allocated a grade of C on the value side, putting it in the middle 20% 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 broadly trending downward for the stock, and the magnitude of this revision indicates a downward shift. Notably, Southern Co. has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). We expect an in-line return from the stock in the next few months.

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