Why the Spark Infrastructure Group share price is sagging 

The share price of electricity distributor Spark Infrastructure Group (ASX: SKI) fell on Monday, lagging the positive move on the broader market.

At around $1.88 after this morning’s 1% fall, Spark shares are worth 13% less today than they were this time last year. You should note, however, that Spark mitigated this by paying its shareholders a dividend yield of more than 5% last year.

Spark owns 49% interests in the South Australia and Victoria power networks and controls around 12% of listed peer DUET Group (ASX: DUE).

The group has also just bought 15.01% of TransGrid, the electricity transmission business newly privatised by the NSW government.

Why  did this happen to  Spark Infrastructure Group  shares?

This morning, Spark Infrastructure Group reported a mixed bag of results for the year ending 31 December 2015. Spark’s underlying profit before loan note interest and tax fell by 3.4% to $263 million.

Spark blamed the slide on a lower share of profits from its SA Power Networks business. The South Australian electricity distributor’s revenues and earnings are highly regulated. Investors may give Spark a pass on this point, as an October 2015 regulatory change should let Spark raise tariffs and rake in significantly more revenue from South Australia.

Perhaps investors were looking for healthier guidance on dividends. Spark reconfirmed its previous distribution guidance of at least 12.5 cents per share (cps) in 2016, at least 13 cps in 2017 and at least 13.5 cps in 2018, subject to business conditions.

Most companies’ shares would probably rally if their management provided such clear guidance for dividend growth. But in the highly regulated world of utilities investment, dividends are an even more important part of total returns than they are for Aussie private investors.

Some traders may have expected Spark’s prospects for cash flow growth to translate into faster dividend hikes. With no positive surprise on dividends today, those investors would have sold their Spark shares.

What’s  n ext for  Spark Infrastructure Group ?

Spark sees potential for a ‘significant increase’ in operating cash flow depending on how regulatory rulings fall. Investors might look forward to that river of cash making its way into their pockets, as the firm intends to review its dividend policy in the next four months.

Spark is diversifying its sources of cash flow and investors could enjoy stronger profits as the firm boosts both operational efficiency and capacity utilisation. With the stock down around 8% since the start of February, this could prove an interesting entry point for an investment in Spark Infrastructure Group.

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Motley Fool contributor Tim Dohrmann has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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