California Water Service Group Announces Third Quarter 2020 Results

SAN JOSE, Calif., Nov. 06, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- California Water Service Group (NYSE: CWT) (the “Company”) today announced net income of $96.4 million or $1.94 earnings per diluted common share for the third quarter of 2020, compared to a net income of $42.4 million or $0.88 earnings per diluted common share for the third quarter of 2019.   

The $54.0 million increase in net income was due to our determination that the October 14, 2020 proposed decision in the California 2018 General Rate Case (GRC) was sufficient evidence to record regulatory assets and associated revenues for interim rate recovery as well as benefits balancing accounts and the decoupling mechanisms. In the third quarter of 2020, the Company recorded revenues of $37.6 million related to interim rate recovery regulatory assets, balancing account net revenue increases of $37.0 million, and customer refunds for 2017 excess deferred federal income taxes (TCJA) of $7.1 million. Included in the amounts above were third quarter interim rate recovery regulatory assets of $18.9 million, balancing account net revenue increases of $11.5 million, and $3.0 million of 2017 TCJA refunds to customers. These increases were partially offset by increases in depreciation and amortization of $2.4 million, employee wages costs of $2.2 million, income taxes of $1.6 million, bad debt expenses of $0.9 million, and outside service costs of $0.7 million.
               
Additionally, certain factors outside the Company’s immediate control decreased net income $1.2 million, including a $2.6 million reduction in accrued unbilled revenue, partially offset by a $1.2 million increase in unrealized gain on certain benefit plan investments.

The proposed decision for our California GRC is subject to adoption by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which can occur no earlier than the CPUC’s November 19, 2020 meeting. Both California Water Service Company (Cal Water) and the CPUC's Public Advocates Office have provided feedback on the proposed decision. If adopted as proposed, the decision would approve the settlement reached in October of 2019 by Cal Water and the CPUC’s Public Advocates Office, allow Cal Water to continue its decoupling balancing accounts through 2022, and allow Cal Water to retain its Pension Cost Balancing Account (PCBA) and Health Cost Balancing Account (HCBA).  

We determined that the proposed decision for our California GRC provides additional evidence about conditions existing as of September 30, 2020. As of November 6, 2020, we also believe that it is probable that the proposed decision will be adopted by the CPUC without any material variation. Applying accounting standards for regulated operations, we recorded regulatory assets and associated operating revenue resulting from the regulatory mechanisms that were approved in the proposed decision as of September 30, 2020. In the unlikely event that the CPUC does not approve the proposed decision as issued, we will need to adjust our regulatory asset balances and operating revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020. Any such adjustment could result in a material decrease to our operating revenue and net operating income for full-year 2020.

According to President and Chief Executive Officer Martin A. Kropelnicki, the October 14, 2020 proposed decision helps enable the Company to continue to provide safe and reliable water service to customers.

“I’m pleased with the October 14, 2020 proposed decision for our California GRC. It fully supports our goal of providing customers with the highest quality water service and reflects the Commission’s support of our operations during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic health crisis,” he said.                 

“I’m also pleased with the solid progress we’ve made on our 2020 infrastructure improvement investment program, making improvements totaling $221.3 million during the first nine months of 2020, despite the continuing pandemic. A top priority for the remainder of the year is to continue doing everything we can to keep our employees healthy and take care of our customers during this unprecedented time,” he said.

Additional Financial Results for the Third Quarter of 2020
Total operating revenue increased $71.6 million to $304.1 million in the third quarter of 2020 compared to $232.5 million in the third quarter of 2019. The increase in the third quarter of 2020 was due to the October 14, 2020 California GRC proposed decision, which allowed the Company to record in the third quarter of 2020 the net operating revenue increases for the first nine months of 2020 that had not previously been recorded while resolution of the California GRC was pending.

Total operating expenses increased $17.0 million, or 9.4%, to $198.0 million in the third quarter of 2020 compared to $181.0 million in the third quarter of 2019.

Water production expenses increased $4.7 million, or 5.9%, to $85.3 million in the third quarter of 2020 compared to $80.6 million in the third quarter of 2019, primarily due to increased rates from our purchased water wholesalers, changes in water production mix, and an increase in customer usage.

Administrative and general and other operations expenses increased $7.7 million to $59.0 million in the third quarter of 2020 compared to $51.3 million in the third quarter of 2019. The increase was due to a $5.4 million cost increase associated with the recording of previously deferred water revenue adjustment mechanism (WRAM) revenue, a $2.2 million increase in employee wages, a $1.3 million increase in employee retirement pension benefit costs, a $0.9 million increase in bad debt expense, and a $0.7 million increase in outside service costs which were partially offset by decreases of $2.0 million in water conservation program costs and $0.5 million in travel costs.

Depreciation and amortization expense increased $2.4 million, to $24.7 million, in the third quarter of 2020, as compared to $22.3 million in the third quarter of 2019, due to an increase in utility plant investment in 2019.         

Income taxes increased $1.6 million due to an increase in pre-tax income from operations which was partially offset by a $7.1 million TCJA refund to customers authorized in the California GRC proposed decision. The Company’s estimated combined effective income tax rate for 2020 is 11.6 percent.

Other income and expense, net of income tax benefits, increased $0.7 million in 2020, mostly due to a $1.2 million increase in unrealized gain on certain benefit plan investments and a $0.8 million decrease in other components of net periodic benefit costs which was partially offset by a $0.9 million decrease in allowance for funds used during construction.

Year-to-Date Results
For the nine-month period ended September 30, 2020, the Company had a net income of $81.3 million or $1.66 income per diluted common share, compared to net income of $51.8 million or $1.08 earnings per diluted common share for the nine-month period ended September 30, 2019.

The $29.5 million increase in net income was due to our determination that the October 14, 2020 proposed decision in the California 2018 GRC allowed us to record regulatory assets and associated revenues for interim rate recovery. In the third quarter of 2020, the Company recorded revenues of $37.6 million related to interim rate recovery regulatory assets and customer refunds for 2017 excess deferred federal income taxes of $7.1 million. These increases were partially offset by increases in depreciation and amortization of $6.8 million, employee wages costs of $1.8 million, maintenance expense of $1.7 million, bad debt expenses of $1.6 million, and outside service costs of $1.1 million.

Additionally, certain factors outside the Company’s immediate control decreased net income $0.5 million, including a $2.8 million decrease in unrealized gain on certain benefit plan investments, partially offset by a $2.2 million increase in accrued unbilled revenue.

Regulatory Update

On October 14, 2020, an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the CPUC issued a proposed decision for Cal Water's 2018 GRC filing. The proposed decision is subject to adoption by the CPUC, which can occur no earlier than the CPUC’s November 19, 2020 meeting. If adopted as proposed, the decision would approve the settlement reached in October of 2019 by Cal Water and the CPUC’s Public Advocates Office, allow Cal Water to continue its decoupling balancing accounts through 2022, and allow Cal Water to retain its PCBA and HCBA. Under this proposed decision, Cal Water would be authorized to invest $828.0 million in its districts throughout California through 2021. This includes $148.0 million of water system infrastructure upgrades that would be recovered via the CPUC’s advice letter procedure once those projects are completed.

Water System Improvements

Company-funded and developer-funded capital investments during the first nine months of 2020 were $221.3 million, an increase of $26.4 million, or 13.5 %, compared to $194.9 million during the first nine months of 2019. 

Liquidity Outlook

Our liquidity remains strong. We maintained $113.3 million of cash as of September 30, 2020 and have additional borrowing capacity of more than $170.0 million, subject to meeting the borrowing conditions on the Company’s lines of credit facilities. On November 5, 2020, the CPUC approved Cal Water’s request for an additional $700.0 million of authorization for debt and equity financing, in addition to the $170.0 million of borrowing capacity discussed above, to fund its capital improvement program through 2025.    In addition, we will continue our 2020 infrastructure improvement investment program, estimated between $260.0 and $290.0 million. At our Board of Directors meeting on October 28, 2020, the Board declared a cash dividend of $0.2125 per share of common stock.

WRAM Receivable
The under-collected net receivable balance in the WRAM and modified cost balancing account (MCBA) was $72.7 million as of September 30, 2020, an increase of 16.1%, or $10.1 million, from the balance of $62.6 million as of December 31, 2019.

Other Information
All stockholders and interested investors are invited to listen to the 2020 third quarter conference call on November 6, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. PT (11:00 a.m. ET) by dialing 1-833-832-5130 or 1-509-844-0151 and keying in ID #3858077. Please dial in at least 15 minutes in advance of the call to ensure a timely connection. A replay of the call will be available from 11:00 a.m. PT (2:00 p.m. ET) on November 6, 2020 through February 5, 2021, at 1-855-859-2056 or 1-404-537-3406, ID #3858077. The replay will also be available under the investor relations tab at www.calwatergroup.com. Prior to the call, Cal Water will post a slide presentation on its website. The presentation can be found at www.calwatergroup.com/docs/q32020slides.pdf after 6:00 a.m. PT. The call will be hosted by President and Chief Executive Officer Martin A. Kropelnicki, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Thomas F. Smegal III, Vice President of Corporate Development and Chief Regulatory Officer Paul G, Townsley, and Vice President and Corporate Controller David B. Healey.

California Water Service Group is the parent company of California Water Service, Washington Water Service, New Mexico Water Service, Hawaii Water Service, Inc., CWS Utility Services, and HWS Utility Services LLC. Together, these companies provide regulated and non-regulated water service to nearly 2 million people in California, Washington, New Mexico, and Hawaii. California Water Service Group’s common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “CWT.” Additional information is available online at www.calwatergroup.com.

This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("Act"). The forward-looking statements are intended to qualify under provisions of the federal securities laws for "safe harbor" treatment established by the Act. Forward-looking statements are based on currently available information, expectations, estimates, assumptions and projections, and management's judgment about the Company, the water utility industry and general economic conditions. Such words as would, expects, intends, plans, believes, estimates, assumes, anticipates, projects, predicts, forecasts or variations of such words or similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance. They are subject to uncertainty and changes in circumstances. Actual results may vary materially from what is contained in a forward-looking statement. Factors that may cause a result different than expected or anticipated include, but are not limited to: any failure by the CPUC to adopt the proposed decision as proposed; governmental and regulatory commissions' decisions; natural disasters or calamities, epidemics, pandemics or disease outbreaks (including COVID-19) or any escalation or worsening of, or economic effects of, the foregoing, including as a result of our suspension of collection activity; consequences of eminent domain actions relating to our water systems; changes in regulatory commissions' policies and procedures; the outcome and timeliness of regulatory commissions' actions concerning rate relief and other matters, including with respect to the GRC; inability to renew leases to operate city water systems on beneficial terms; changes in California State Water Resources Control Board water quality standards; changes in environmental compliance and water quality requirements; electric power interruptions; changes in customer water use patterns and the effects of conservation; our ability to complete, successfully integrate and achieve anticipated benefits from announced acquisitions; the impact of weather and climate on water availability, water sales and operating results; civil disturbances or terrorist threats or acts, or apprehension about the possible future occurrences of acts of this type; labor relations matters as we negotiate with the unions; restrictive covenants in or changes to the credit ratings on our current or future debt that could increase our financing costs or affect our ability to borrow, make payments on debt or pay dividends; and, other risks and unforeseen events. When considering forward-looking statements, you should keep in mind the cautionary statements included in this paragraph, as well as the annual 10-K, Quarterly 10-Q, and other reports filed from time-to-time with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Company assumes no obligation to provide public updates of forward-looking statements.

Contact

Tom Smegal
(408) 367-8200 (analysts)

Shannon Dean
(408) 367-8243 (media)



CALIFORNIA WATER SERVICE GROUP   
CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS   
Unaudited   
      
(In thousands, except per share data)September 30 December 31
    2020   2019 
ASSETS   
Utility plant:   
 Utility plant$3,835,194  $3,550,485 
 Less accumulated depreciation and amortization (1,238,880)  (1,144,115)
  Net utility plant 2,596,314   2,406,370 
Current assets:   
 Cash and cash equivalents 113,312   42,653 
 Receivables:   
  Customers, net 53,397   32,058 
  Regulatory balancing accounts 54,415   38,225 
  Other, net 15,056   14,187 
 Unbilled revenue, net 46,247   34,879 
 Materials and supplies at weighted average cost 8,611   7,745 
 Taxes, prepaid expenses, and other assets 14,726   14,965 
  Total current assets 305,764   184,712 
Other assets:   
 Regulatory assets 484,435   433,322 
 Goodwill 30,349   2,615 
 Other assets 89,572   84,289 
  Total other assets 604,356   520,226 
TOTAL ASSETS$3,506,434  $3,111,308 
      
CAPITALIZATION AND LIABILITIES   
Capitalization:   
 Common stock, $.01 par value; 68,000 shares authorized, 49,840 and 48,532 outstanding in 2020 and 2019, respectively$498  $485 
 Additional paid-in capital 422,391   362,275 
 Retained earnings 467,303   417,146 
  Total common stockholders' equity 890,192   779,906 
          
 Long-term debt, net 785,055   786,754 
  Total capitalization 1,675,247   1,566,660 
Current liabilities:   
 Current maturities of long-term debt, net 21,883   21,868 
 Short-term borrowings 375,100   175,100 
 Accounts payable 127,158   108,463 
 Regulatory balancing accounts 11,003   4,462 
 Accrued interest 14,233   5,810 
 Accrued expenses and other liabilities 54,446   43,018 
  Total current liabilities 603,823   358,721 
Deferred income taxes, net 245,456   222,590 
Pension and postretirement benefits other than pensions 261,081   258,907 
Regulatory liabilities and other  257,054   271,831 
Advances for construction 196,853   191,062 
Contributions in aid of construction 266,920   241,537 
Commitments and contingencies   
TOTAL CAPITALIZATION AND LIABILITIES$3,506,434  $3,111,308 
      



CALIFORNIA WATER SERVICE GROUP   
CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF INCOME   
Unaudited   
(In thousands, except per share data)   
      
For the Three Months ended:   
   September 30, September 30,
    2020   2019 
      
Operating revenue$304,108  $232,537 
Operating expenses:   
 Operations:   
  Water production costs 85,344   80,568 
  Administrative and General 29,208   26,779 
  Other operations 29,746   24,550 
 Maintenance 7,129   7,065 
 Depreciation and amortization 24,699   22,273 
 Income taxes 13,804   12,194 
 Property and other taxes 8,116   7,541 
  Total operating expenses 198,046   180,970 
  Net operating income 106,062   51,567 
Other income and expenses:   
 Non-regulated revenue 3,934   4,118 
 Non-regulated expenses (2,865)  (4,351)
 Other components of net periodic benefit cost (1,008)  (1,857)
 Allowance for equity funds used during construction 973   1,868 
 Income tax (expense) benefit on other income and expenses (245)  330 
  Net other income 789   108 
Interest expense:   
 Interest Expense 11,162   10,279 
 Allowance for borrowed funds used during construction (671)  (1,028)
  Net interest expense 10,491   9,251 
Net Income$96,360  $42,424 
Earnings per share    
 Basic$1.94  $0.88 
 Diluted$1.94  $0.88 
Weighted average shares outstanding   
 Basic 49,576   48,141 
 Diluted 49,576   48,141 
Dividends per share of common stock$0.2125  $0.1975 
      
      
      
      
      
      
CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF INCOME   
Unaudited   
(In thousands, except per share data)   
      
For the Nine Months ended:   
   September 30, September 30,
    2020   2019 
      
Operating revenue$605,155  $537,679 
Operating expenses:   
 Operations:   
  Water production costs 210,462   190,795 
  Administrative and General 85,827   81,310 
  Other operations 69,618   64,913 
 Maintenance 20,924   19,212 
 Depreciation and amortization 73,733   66,967 
 Income taxes 10,489   13,524 
 Property and other taxes 22,470   21,902 
  Total operating expenses 493,523   458,623 
  Net operating income 111,632   79,056 
Other income and expenses:   
 Non-regulated revenue 11,969   14,149 
 Non-regulated expenses (11,811)  (10,470)
 Other components of net periodic benefit cost (3,770)  (4,308)
 Allowance for equity funds used during construction 4,292   5,087 
 Income tax expense on other income and expenses (152)  (985)
  Net other income 528   3,473 
Interest expense:   
 Interest Expense 33,573   33,532 
 Allowance for borrowed funds used during construction (2,747)  (2,783)
  Net interest expense 30,826   30,749 
Net income$81,334  $51,780 
Earnings per share    
 Basic$1.66  $1.08 
 Diluted$1.66  $1.08 
Weighted average shares outstanding   
 Basic 49,034   48,121 
 Diluted 49,034   48,121 
Dividends per share of common stock$0.6375  $0.5925 
      
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