NorthWestern (NYSE: LNT) and Alliant Energy (NYSE:LNT) are both utilities companies, but which is the better business? We will contrast the two businesses based on the strength of their valuation, risk, earnings, dividends, analyst recommendations, institutional ownership and profitability.

Valuation and Earnings

This table compares NorthWestern and Alliant Energy’s revenue, earnings per share (EPS) and valuation.

Gross Revenue Price/Sales Ratio Net Income Earnings Per Share Price/Earnings Ratio
NorthWestern $1.31 billion 2.30 $162.70 million $3.30 18.05
Alliant Energy $3.38 billion 2.94 $467.50 million $1.93 22.07

Alliant Energy has higher revenue and earnings than NorthWestern. NorthWestern is trading at a lower price-to-earnings ratio than Alliant Energy, indicating that it is currently the more affordable of the two stocks.

Analyst Ratings

This is a summary of recent ratings and price targets for NorthWestern and Alliant Energy, as reported by MarketBeat.

Sell Ratings Hold Ratings Buy Ratings Strong Buy Ratings Rating Score
NorthWestern 1 2 1 0 2.00
Alliant Energy 1 5 0 0 1.83

NorthWestern presently has a consensus price target of $56.00, suggesting a potential downside of 6.01%. Alliant Energy has a consensus price target of $44.00, suggesting a potential upside of 3.29%. Given Alliant Energy’s higher probable upside, analysts plainly believe Alliant Energy is more favorable than NorthWestern.

Dividends

NorthWestern pays an annual dividend of $2.20 per share and has a dividend yield of 3.7%. Alliant Energy pays an annual dividend of $1.34 per share and has a dividend yield of 3.1%. NorthWestern pays out 66.7% of its earnings in the form of a dividend. Alliant Energy pays out 69.4% of its earnings in the form of a dividend. Both companies have healthy payout ratios and should be able to cover their dividend payments with earnings for the next several years. NorthWestern has raised its dividend for 9 consecutive years and Alliant Energy has raised its dividend for 12 consecutive years. NorthWestern is clearly the better dividend stock, given its higher yield and lower payout ratio.

Profitability

This table compares NorthWestern and Alliant Energy’s net margins, return on equity and return on assets.

Net Margins Return on Equity Return on Assets
NorthWestern 14.84% 10.28% 3.41%
Alliant Energy 14.14% 11.35% 3.36%

Volatility & Risk

NorthWestern has a beta of 0.18, suggesting that its stock price is 82% less volatile than the S&P 500. Comparatively, Alliant Energy has a beta of 0.29, suggesting that its stock price is 71% less volatile than the S&P 500.

Insider & Institutional Ownership

95.9% of NorthWestern shares are owned by institutional investors. Comparatively, 70.6% of Alliant Energy shares are owned by institutional investors. 1.4% of NorthWestern shares are owned by company insiders. Comparatively, 0.3% of Alliant Energy shares are owned by company insiders. Strong institutional ownership is an indication that endowments, large money managers and hedge funds believe a stock will outperform the market over the long term.

Summary

NorthWestern beats Alliant Energy on 9 of the 17 factors compared between the two stocks.

NorthWestern Company Profile

NorthWestern Corporation, doing business as NorthWestern Energy, provides electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, and industrial customers. The company operates through Electric Operations and Natural Gas Operations segments. It generates, transmits, and distributes electricity; and produces, stores, transmits, and distributes natural gas, as well as owns municipal franchises to provide natural gas service in the communities. The company's electric transmission and distribution network consists of approximately 24,660 miles of overhead and underground transmission and distribution lines, as well as 385 transmission and distribution substations in Montana; and transmission and distribution network comprises of approximately 3,560 miles of overhead and underground transmission and distribution lines, as well as 126 substations in South Dakota. Its natural gas transmission system consists of approximately 2,100 miles of pipeline. The company serves approximately 718,300 customers in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, the United States. NorthWestern Corporation was founded in 1923 and is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Alliant Energy Company Profile

Alliant Energy Corporation operates as a utility holding company that provides regulated electricity and natural gas services in the Midwest region of the United States. It operates through three segments: Electric, Gas, and Other. The company, through its subsidiary, Interstate Power and Light Company (IPL), primarily generates and distributes electricity, and distributes and transports natural gas to retail customers in Iowa; sells electricity to wholesale customers in Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa; and generates and distributes steam in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Alliant Energy Corporation, through its subsidiary, Wisconsin Power and Light Company (WPL), generates and distributes electricity, and distributes and transports natural gas to retail customers in Wisconsin; and sells electricity to wholesale customers in Wisconsin. As of December 31, 2017, IPL supplied electricity to 490,000 retail customers and natural gas to 220,000 retail customers; and WPL supplied electricity to 470,000 retail customers and natural gas to 190,000 retail customers. It offers electric utility services to retail customers in the farming, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, chemical, and paper industries. In addition, the company holds investments in various businesses, which provide freight services through a short-line railway between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa; a barge terminal and hauling services on the Mississippi River; and other transfer and storage services. Further, it owns a non-regulated 347 megawatt (MW) natural gas-fired electric generating unit near Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin; and a non-regulated 99 MW Franklin County wind farm located in Franklin County, Iowa. Alliant Energy Corporation was founded in 1917 and is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin.

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