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NFG or OGS: Which Utility Stock Should You Hold on to in 2022?

With an increasing focus on environmentally-sustainable operations, companies are opting for a clean-energy shift. This is possible for the Utility sector owing to abundance of clean natural gas, which is increasing demand for its distribution network, thus benefiting the Zacks Utility Gas Distribution industry. Per the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the annual U.S. marketed natural gas production rose 2.47% in 2021 from the 2020 level and the metric is expected to inch up 2.93% in 2022 from the 2021 figure.

Per the EIA, the U.S. consumption of natural gas averaged 83 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2021, on par with the 2020 level. EIA expects to maintain the same level in 2022 and 2023. A bulk volume of natural gas produced is utilized bythe electric power sector.

However, consumption of natural gas is expected to decline 6% in 2022 from the prior-year level due to the rising usageof renewable energy. The industry faces tough competition from other alternative energy sources like solar, water and wind, and the expected reduction in the consumption of natural gas is likely to hurt demand for the natural gas pipelines.

Another headwind for the industry players is its existing old and aging distribution pipelines. Any leakage or breaks in these infrastructures might disrupt services. Therefore to serve their customer base effectively and continuously, the companies need substantial investments.

Procurement of debt might be a challenge in 2022 as companies were enjoying low-interest rate until last year. This year, the Federal Reserve expects to hike interest rates, making funding expensive for the companies.

Against this backdrop, we run a comparative analysis of two prominent gas distribution utilities, namely National Fuel Gas Co. NFG and ONE Gas, Inc. OGS to determine which stock is better poised right now.

Both stocks currently carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). NFG and OGS have a market capitalization of $5.79 billion and $4.25 billion, respectively. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Estimate Growth

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for NFG’sfiscal 2022 earnings per share is pegged at $5.25, indicating a hike of 22.4% from the year-ago fiscal’s reported figure. The same for OGS stands at $3.84, marking growth of 4.4% from the last fiscal year’s reported figure.

Earnings Surprise & Long-Term Growth

NFG delivered a trailing four-quarter surprise of 10.67%, on average. Its long-term (three to five years) earnings growth is projected at 5.14%.

OGS delivered a trailing four-quarter surprise of 4.42%, on average. Its long-term earnings growth rate is pegged at 5%.

Return on Equity (ROE)

ROE is the measure of a company’s efficiency in utilizing its shareholders’ funds. NFG and OGS have a trailing 12-month ROE of 19.8% and 8.9%, respectively. The industry’s ROE for the same period came in at 10.2%.

Debt to Capital

The total debt-to-capital ratio is a perfect indicator of a company’s financial position and shows how much debt is used in running its business. OGS has a total debt-to-capital of 63.45%, much higher than NFG’s 59.54%. The utility gas distribution industry’s average long-term debt-to-capital is 56.80%.

Times interest earned (TIE) ratio of OGS at the end of third-quarter 2021 was 5.01, better than 4.81 recorded at the end of fourth-quarter 2020. The same for NFG improved from 0.01 at the end of fiscal 2020 to 4.27 at the end of fourth-quarter fiscal 2021. A greater than one TIE ratio reflects the companies’ financial strength and ability to meet their debt obligations.

Investment Plans

NFG is constantly spending on strengthening its natural gas and oil operation, which is positively impacting total production. The same invested $770 million in fiscal 2021. Long-term capital plans are designed to boost earnings of each of its business segments. National Fuel Ga splans to invest in the range of $640-$760 million during fiscal 2022.

ONE Gas invested $515 million in 2020 and is likely to have invested $540 million in 2021. The increase is primarily attributable to the extension of services to new customers. In the 2021-2025 time period, OGS aims to invest $3 billion in bolstering operations. Nearly 65-70% of its planned capital expenditure will be directed toward systems integrity and replacement projects.

Price Movement

In the past six months, shares of NFG and OGS have rallied 22.5% and 6.4%, respectively, both outperforming the industry’s 5.6% growth.


Image Source: Zacks Investment Research


NFG has a better price performance, ROE, earnings surprise, long-term growth rate and financial position compared with OGS’s fundamentals. Even though all factors reflect that both utilities have favorable metrics and seem a promising choice for investors, looking at the Style Score, one can realize that NFG has a better VGM score (of B) than OGS’s (score of F). This makes us believe that National Fuel Gas is a wealthier option as a natural gas distribution stock for 2022.

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National Fuel Gas Company (NFG): Free Stock Analysis Report
ONE Gas, Inc. (OGS): Free Stock Analysis Report
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