First look at Enerplus Corporation (ERF). Huge dividend, weak balance sheet.


Due to company’s exposure to natural gas-related assets, the stock has lost more than 26% in this year alone. However, it looks like a cheap deal after the recent sell-off. Enerplus is trading near its book value. The P/S and P/CF ratios stand at 2.4, and 5.3, respectively. The company has substantial assets in the Marcellus and Bakken shales. Morningstar claims that these assets could prove highly productive in the long term.

My FED+ fair model suggests a fair value range of $20 – $38. Analysts mean target price of $26.79 fits almost perfectly at the middle of my fair value range. The current price of $18 suggests that Enerplus is deeply undervalued. I think the stock is oversold, and ready for a big bounce. That is why I rate it as a buy.

Here is my first look analysis of Enerplus Corporation

Enerplus Corporation (ERF)

Price: $17.76

Shares: 196.30 million

Market capitalization: $3.48 billion

All the financial numbers are in Canadian dollars.  Fortunately the US dollar and Canadian dollar are at near parity.  Here is a Google Finance chart of the last 10 years of USD to CAD exchange rates.


What does the company do – Enerplus, based in Calgary, Alberta, is an independent energy company engaged in the exploration for and production of oil and gas in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin and Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. At the end of 2010, the company reported proven reserves of 219.4 million barrels of oil equivalent. Daily net production averaged about 83,139 barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2010 at a ratio of 58% gas/42% liquids.

Morningstar’s take – The passing of 2010 marked a series of changes for Enerplus as it converted from an income trust to a corporation. The company sold off conventional and oil sands assets, using the proceeds to build its acreage position in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale and the Bakken in North Dakota and Saskatchewan. We think the company will continue to pay an attractive dividend and aggressively pursue production growth in the Marcellus and Bakken.


Bonds: According to Enerplus Corp has no bond data available.

Times interest earned:  ERF’s 2011 net income was $109 million and the company paid $60 million in interest charges.  This means that the company earned only 1.81 times the interest on its long term debts.  The father of value investing, Benjamin Graham, believed that a company should earn fully four times the interest charges to warrant the purchase of shares of an industrial preferred stock.

Preferred stock: none

Margin of profit: 8.19%  Profit margins were between 18.7% and 37.9% from 2002 through 2008.  Since then they have ranged between 6.9% and 9.4%.

DIVIDEND RECORD: Enerplus Corporation cut its dividend 57% from $0.42 monthly in late 2008 to $0.18 monthly since the beginning of 2009.  There has been no dividend growth since the cut.

Dividend: $0.18 monthly

Dividend yield: 12.16%  ($2.16 annual dividend / $17.76 share price)

Dividend payout: 386% ($2.16 / $0.56 EPS in 2011) –OR- 133% ($2.16 / $1.62 average adjusted earning power).  Either way ERF the dividend is not safe by any measure.  The world is reentering recession.  That will drive the price of oil down and natural gas price will not recover anytime soon.  I expect another significant dividend cut in the next year.


EARNING POWER: $1.62* @ 196.3 million shares

*Canadian dollars (earnings adjusted for changes in capitalization – typically share buybacks and/or additional shares created)


Net income


Adjusted EPS



$432 M

109 M




$545 M

122 M




$340 M

128 M




$889 M

161 M




$89 M

170 M




($179 M)

176 M




$109 M

180 M


Seven year average adjusted earnings per share is $1.62

Consider contrarian buying below $12.96 (8 times average adjusted EPS)

Enerplus Corporation (ERF) is currently trading at 10.96 times average adjusted EPS.  This is stock is value priced.

Consider value buying below $19.44 (12 times average adjusted EPS)

Consider speculative selling above $32.40 (20 times average adjusted EPS)

BALANCE SHEET – ERF’s current ratio and quick ratio reveal how tenuous their balance sheet is.


Book value per share: $16.69 ($3,277 million shareholder equity / 196.3 million shares)

Tangible book value per share: $15.90 (shareholder equity – intangible assets of $155 million / shares)

Price to book value ratio: $1.06 (under 1.0 is good)

Price to tangible book value ratio: 1.11 (under 1.0 is great)

Current ratio: 0.27 latest quarter (over 2.0 is good)

Quick ratio: 0.011 latest quarter (over 1.0 is good)

Debt to equity ratio: 0.26 (lower is better)

Percentage of total assets in plant, property, and equipment: 90.98% (the higher the better)

Working capital trend is down.  That means that ERF must find funding to make up the difference.  This is a bad sign coupled with the extreme dividend payout ratio.


CONCLUSION – The best time to buy Enerplus Corporation in recent years was in 2009 when the stock bottomed around $15 per share.  However there is a worry-some downward spike in the price during the “flash crash” of May 2010.  I don’t like stocks that get pummeled in flash crashes.  ERF is a high dividend stock yielding over 12%, but the dividend is not safe based on the expected earnings in the near future.  The world is slipping back into recession.  Europe is already in recession, China is moving towards recession, and the US data keeps getting worse.  Recessions cause oil prices to drop.  That will reduce ERF’s earnings like in 2009.  Natural gas has dropped, dropped, dropped.  Maybe it stabilizes at around $2 per MCF or $3, but the point is that it will not miraculously go back up to $10 – $14 per MCF with all the supply increases due to the fracking technology.  I expect ERF to cut their dividend significantly again when its obvious to the common man that worldwide recession is back.  The stock price is value now, but it will be even cheaper in the near future.  ERF’s balance sheet has several weaknesses.  Their low current ratio and quick ratio shows that the company has little current assets to pay for current liabilities.  Those liabilities will need to be funded through additional stock offerings or increasing long term debts.  This isn’t a single year issue.  Look at the working capital trend to see a company that is always short of paying its current liabilities from current assets.  I would ignore this company until they cut their dividend and improve their balance sheet.


DISCLOSURE – I don’t own Enerplus Corporation (ERF).

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Published in: on April 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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