U.S Regulated Utilities: Still Not Cheap Enough

Perspectives — Lazard Asset Management

December 06, 2023

U.S. regulated utilities are a big part of the global listed infrastructure world: the American electricity, gas and water providers that largely make up the sector account for more than 50% of the Lazard Global Listed Infrastructure strategy's preferred investable universe, or approximately US$1.1 trillion in market capitalization. It is a significant corner of the market to which any listed infrastructure manager must pay close heed.

Rock-bottom interest rates and relatively stable allowed-regulatory returns have made U.S. utilities stocks a favorite with investors in recent years, underpinning strong share price performance. However, the sector has come under pressure in 2023, as higher interest rates have narrowed the gap between bond yields and allowed-regulatory returns.

This recent share price weakness has sparked comment from some in the buy- and sell-side community that U.S. regulated utilities now merit a close look, given their price-to-earnings ratios have fallen by roughly 25% over the past year, and currently sit at levels not seen in almost a decade.

In this Lazard Perspectives piece, Lazard Asset Management portfolio managers provide a different take, outlining why — with some exceptions — they believe the sector remains overvalued, why these excessive valuations remain the key risk for the asset class, and why share prices need to fall further before they find the sector attractive.

Click here to read this edition of Lazard Perspectives

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