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Is National Grid plc (NG) a Buy?

National Grid plc (LON:NG)LONDON — To me, capital growth and dividend income are equally important. Together, they provide the total return from any share investment and, as you might expect, my aim is to invest in companies that can beat the total return delivered by the wider market.

To put that aim into perspective, the FTSE 100 has provided investors with a total return of around 3% per annum since January 2008.

Quality and value
If my investments are to outperform, I need to back companies that score well on several quality indicators and buy at prices that offer decent value.

So this series aims to identify appealing FTSE 100 investment opportunities and today I’m looking at National Grid plc (LON:NG), which is well-known for operating Britain’s gas and electricity transmission systems. It also runs a gas distribution business in Britain, and has gas and electricity assets in the U.S.

With the shares at 828 pence, National Grid plc (LON:NG)’s market cap. is £30,350 million.

This table summarizes the firm’s recent financial record:

Year to March 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Revenue (£m) 15,624 14,007 14,343 13,832 14,359
Net cash from operations (£m) 3,413 4,516 4,858 4,228 3,750
Adjusted earnings per share 50.2p 55.05p 50.9p 50p 56.1p
Dividend per share 35.64p 38.49p 36.37p 39.28p 40.85p

Think big pylons and huge underground gas pipes and you are thinking of Britain’s gas and electricity transmission systems. It’s how we move gas and electrical energy long distances to where it’s needed around the country. Running those transmission systems is part of what National Grid plc (LON:NG) does. Last year, the firm earned around 44% of its operating profits that way. It’s a capital-intensive business with captive consumers, reliable cash flows and fierce regulation.

A further 22% of profits came from operating four of the nation’s eight regional gas distribution networks and 34% of profits came from the company’s interests in the north eastern U.S., where

the firm’s regulated business includes electricity generation, transmission and distribution assets, and gas distribution networks.

If National Grid plc (LON:NG) can keep balancing capital expenditure, regulatory compliance and interest payments, the steady cash flow generated should continue to filter down into steadily rising dividends, which is an important component of total returns.

National Grid’s total-return potential
Let’s examine five indicators to help judge the quality of the company’s total-return potential:

Dividend cover: adjusted earnings covered the last dividend around 1.4 times. 3/5

Borrowings: net debt around 7.3 times operating profit with 4.4 times interest cover. 3/5

Growth: revenue and earnings have recently grown with decent cash flow support. 4/5

Price to earnings: a forward 14 or so looks ahead of growth and yield expectations. 2/5

Outlook: good recent trading and a positive outlook. 5/5

Overall, I score National Grid plc (LON:NG) 17 out of 25, which encourages me to believe the firm has potential to out-pace the wider market’s total return, going forward.

Foolish summary
Strong cash flow supports interest and dividend payments. Recent trading has been good and the positive outlook is encouraging. Such attributes seem to reflect in the current valuation. I’m watching National Grid plc (LON:NG), which looks worth buying on the dips.

The article Should I Invest in National Grid? originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Kevin Godbold.

Kevin Godbold has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

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