Investment Observation: Aqua America (WTR)

Today's investment observation is AquaAmerica (WTR). According to Yahoo!Finance's water utilities review, WTR is ranked as the second largest water utility based on market capitalization.The most important point about this investment observation is that WTR has fallen to a brand new low during market hours on Friday October 30th. This low may soon match the 2-year low of around $14.50 set in mid-October 2008. This is fascinating because the actual lowest point after the market peak of 2006 at $30 is no longer on our last 52-week radar. However, we will watch to see if the ultimate low of $14.50 is reached.According to Value Line Investment Survey, WTR normally trades around 1.6 times the per share dividend divided by the "interest rate" (1.6x $0.51/interest rate). Valueline doesn't tell us by which interest rate we should apply to the company, so I have decided to apply the 30, 20, and 10 year U.S. Treasury rate. The following are the mean prices that WTR would trade at for each interest rate:

  • 30 year rate- $19.29
  • 20 year rate- $19.47
  • 10 year rate- $23.93

Based on the 30 year rate, WTR is selling 19.91% below the historical mean value. I chose the $19.29 value since it was the most conservative figure.

However, according to Investment Quality Trends, WTR is considered undervalued when it is selling for $12.27 or less. This indicates that WTR is not currently undervalued but could easily get to the $12.50 range if market conditions continue on the downside. Additionally, WTR has a large debt low and a high dividend payout ratio of 74%. This means that the stock could only "afford" a decline in earnings of 25% before the company has to borrow or issue more share to service the dividend.

According to Dow Theory, the following are the most important downside targets to watch for:

  • $14
  • $11.25 (fair value)
  • $9
  • $6.50

These targets are supposed to act as support levels. Support levels are points which the stock falls to but should not go below. If the stock goes below one support level then we should expect the stock to decline to the next target level.

One support level that is significant is the $15 level. This happens to be the most obvious level that the stock needs to hold above. Falling below $15 could indicate the negative nature of the markets.

Although this is a water utility and water is critical to life, investors need to understand that companies in this industry aren't a "sure thing." The biggest reason for this is that when, and if, water becomes scarce, government regulators will step in to take over (nationalize) what should otherwise be sold at the most profitable price (thereby curbing wasteful consumption.) There is literally an upside cap on profitability to a company like this due to the critical importance of the resource being sold.

Take your time to consider this Dividend Achiever for the good and the bad attributes. Your careful analysis of this company might compel you to purchase the stock. It is my hope that the stock falls further before your next acquisition. Touc.

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