Essay Preview: Dividend Policy
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In 1994, Merrill Lynch published a report that disclosed the change in their investment rating for the FPL Group, Inc.. They had downgraded this rating as they expected the directors would choose not to raise the annual dividend. This also happened to be the first time in 47 years that the FPL Group had not raised dividends. This tweaked the interest of a certain electric utilities analyst at the First Equity Securities Corporation, Kate Stark. She now was faced with the decision whether or not to amend her own recommendation of “hold” on FPL Group, Inc.s stock (her recommendation of hold was based on the assumption that FPL will keep its dividend at $2.48 per share, or increase this slightly).
James Broadheld, chairman of the FPL Group, understood the issues of an ever changing marketplace, and knew that the industry was on the verge of being deregulated, and thus implemented a strategy that focused primarily on a strong commitment to quality as well as customer service, while focusing on the utilities industry and expanding capacity in order to improve its own cost position. He believed that this approach to business would result in a future of “full and open” competition amongst all competitors. As a result, as of May 1994, the FPL Group was faced with a critical question – to decrease their dividend payout ratio or not?
Prior to Broadhelds entry to FPL, chairman Marshall McDonald expanded the types of industries FPL were involved in during the 70s and 80s, leading to extensive diversification. Examples of such industries include real estate and insurance, just to name a few. As Broadheld stepped in, FPLs diversification decreased and as a result the firm saw an improved efficiency.
Exhibit 7 revealed that FPLs capacity margin is 8.6%, which is alarmingly low in comparison to the other provided companies. The overall average is approximately 11.39%. This lower capacity margin shows that not much growth is to be expected of the firm, and this is of course relative to other firms. The same exhibit illustrates cost-management problems. More specifically, FPLs transmission cost of $0.0019/kWh is significantly greater than the other firms provided with an average of $0.0010. Also, considering the fact that the company purchases 30% of the power used from foreign firms, FPLs respective power costs can be high as they are exposed to the risk of changing (and increasing) power prices.
The case presented a wide variety of changes in the industrys regulatory standards. For example, 1992s Wholesale Wheeling allowed companies to buy power from another with the help of a third party. In addition, the Retail Wheeling of 1994 allowed actual customers to not only buy from the monopoly, but from other utility firms (again through third parties). Also, many firms have lost of a substantial amount in market