Essential Utilities Inc. Overcomes Warm Winter to Achieve Strong 2023 Performance

Essential Utilities

BRYN MAWR, PA — Essential Utilities Inc. (NYSE: WTRG), a leading provider of water and natural gas services, recently delivered a strong performance for the fourth quarter and full year of 2023, despite the unusually warmer winter weather. The company announced a favorable net income of $498.2 million or $1.86 per share, surpassing 2022’s figures of $465.2 million or $1.77 per share.

The Essential Utilities Chairman and CEO, Christopher Franklin, acknowledged the impressive third-time Newsweek recognition as one of America’s Most Responsible Companies. Praising the company’s dedication towards operational excellence, environmental stewardship, and sustainable business practices, he also expressed pleasure at the company’s meeting of its earnings per share guidance for the year.

The company reported a revenue of $2.05 billion for 2023, marking a decrease from the $2.29 billion of 2022. Lower purchased gas costs and unfavorable weather conditions, which affected the volume from the regulated natural gas segment, initiated this decline. However, the shortfall in revenue was partly compensated by additional revenues from regulatory recoveries.

Operating expenses experienced a drop, recording $575.5 million for 2023, a decrease from $613.6 million of the previous year. The dip was attributed to lower operating expenses, customer assistance program expenses, employee retirement expenses, and customer bad debt.

Essential’s regulated water segment performed credibly, reporting revenues of $1.15 billion, a 6.5% increase from 2022’s $1.08 billion. The increase in revenues for the segment was chiefly due to regulatory recoveries and customer growth.

Contrarily, Essential’s regulated natural gas segment suffered a decrease in revenues from $1.14 billion in 2022 to $863.8 million in 2023, primarily due to lower purchased gas costs.

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Essential’s performance for the fourth quarter of 2023 exhibited an impressive net income of $135.4 million, a surge from $114.9 million of the same period in 2022. Earnings per share recorded $0.50 for the quarter, an increase from the $0.44 of the fourth quarter in 2022.

Highlighting its 2024 goals, Essential guides for a net income per diluted common share of $1.96 to $2.00. It forecasts regulated infrastructure investments to be approximately $1.3 to $1.4 billion, with a significant emphasis on the regulated water segment.

The Essential Board of Directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.3071 per share of common stock, confirming their continued tradition of paying a consecutive quarterly cash dividend for over 79 years.

To support its planned expansion, Essential Utilities has completed a $500 million issuance of long-term debt in January 2024. It also plans to raise further equity through an ATM equity program during the year.

Essential Utilities showcased a proactive growth strategy by acquiring seven systems in 2023. This move expanded its customer base by $44.5 million in rate base and more than 11,000 new customers. Combining this with organic growth, Essential increased its water and wastewater customer base by roughly 1.7%.

In conclusion, Essential Utilities Inc. remains a stalwart in the regulated water and natural gas industry. Despite the environmental challenges of a warmer winter, the company reported strong financial results for 2023 and forecasted continued growth for 2024.

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