The top 20 U.S. electric and multi-utility companies covered by the S&P Global Market Intelligence recorded a total market capitalization of $783.97 billion at the close of the fourth quarter of 2019, an increase from $776.79 billion at the end of the third quarter of 2019.
PPL Corp. climbed two spots to 15th from 17th in ranking, as the utility posted a 14.1% increase to end the fourth quarter with a market cap of $25.94 billion. In October 2019, reports surfaced that PPL and Avangrid Inc. were considering merging all or parts of their businesses. A full merger between the two companies would have been the biggest deal in the U.S. utility space in 2019.
PPL's stock price also increased 6.07% on Dec. 13, 2019, in the wake of British voters delivering a landslide victory to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ruling Conservative Party, which effectively means plans to renationalize the U.K. utility industry went up in smoke. PPL is a U.S.-headquartered company with a U.K. subsidiary.
NextEra Energy Inc. remained as the only power company in the list with a market capitalization of over $100 billion, as the company booked a 3.9% quarter-over-quarter increase to $118.36 billion. Dominion Energy Inc. came in second on the list, with a market cap of $68.17 billion, followed by Southern Co., which saw a 3.1% increase in market cap to $66.80 billion.
On the flip side, Duke Energy Corp. saw its ranking slip by two spots to the fourth position from the second position, as it recorded a 4.8% quarter-over-quarter drop in market cap to $66.50 billion. During the fourth quarter, Duke Energy launched a public offering of 25 million shares of its common stock with a forward component, priced at $86.45 per share.
In its November 2019 earnings conference call, the company unveiled plans to issue about $2.5 billion in equity by the end of 2020 to help strengthen its balance sheet as it scraps a "phased-in approach" for the halted Atlantic Coast pipeline project.
Exelon Corp. recorded the biggest decline with its market cap decreasing 5.6% to $44.32 billion. In October 2019, Anne Pramaggiore stepped down as senior executive vice president of Exelon and CEO of Exelon Utilities. Exelon's stock fell 4.57% to $44.91 on about double average trading volume on Oct. 16, 2019.
Her resignation comes after Exelon and its Commonwealth Edison Co. subsidiary received a second grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reported that Pramaggiore "is one focus of the ongoing federal probe" into Exelon subsidiary ComEd's lobbying activities in Illinois.
Of the 20 companies in the list, 10 utilities retained their rankings and 10 companies recorded quarter-over-quarter declines. Overall, the industry median decreased 1.3% from the 2019 third quarter.
In the last quarter of 2019, the broader S&P 500 index posted a total return of 9.1%, outperforming the S&P 500 utility indexes.
The S&P 500 Electric Utilities Sub Industry index recorded a total return of 1.3%, the S&P 500 Utilities index saw an increase of 0.8%, while the S&P 500 Multi-Utilities index declined 1.0%.