Energy Efficiency Is On The Rise… And This Company Stands To Profit

Johnson Controls, Inc. (NYSE: JCI) is headquartered in my backyard: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

#-ad_banner-#It’s a company focused heavily on efficiency, and it’s got its finger on the pulse of what the corporate world wants. And it turns out, the corporate world wants what JCI is selling.

In its latest Energy Efficiency Indicator survey, JCI found that 72% of the 1,243 participants said their companies are anticipating increasing their investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy in the next twelve months.

That’s a massive number, and it’s also a massive increase compared to just four years ago. In 2013, JCI’s Energy Efficiency Indicator survey found that only 42% of those surveyed had planned to increase investment.

And take a look at this map:

Emerging markets are going to be investing heavily in efficiency and renewable energy, but developed economies aren’t sitting on the sidelines, either.

I think the efficiency sectors is going to be an interesting area over the next couple of years, and there are several different areas that could be of note to investors.

According to the survey, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) improvements were the most popular improvement over the past 12 months, followed by energy-focused education programs, building control improvements, water efficiency improvements, onsite renewable energy and building systems integration.

And looking into the future? 80% of those surveyed plan to achieve “nearly net zero,” “net zero” or positive energy status for at least one of their facilities.

(Net zero means the company or facility offsets all of its carbon emissions, and certified net zero buildings must meet exceptional energy conservation — and generation — standards, and must be verified by a certification body.)

This means that many companies across the world are going to be spending big bucks on efficiency and renewable energy generation.

That’s where a company like JCI comes in.

“Its Building Efficiency segment,” reads the company profile, “designs, produces, markets, and installs integrated heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems, as well as building management systems, controls, and security and mechanical equipment. This segment also provides technical services, energy management consulting, residential air conditioning and heating systems, and industrial refrigeration products.”

Now, JCI is also in the automotive parts sector, but recently it was announced that this part of the business would be spun off with a new IPO in October 2016. The new company will be named Adient.

The remaining business segments focus on building efficiency and power solutions, and both are growing nicely.

According to the company’s second quarter earnings report, the building efficiency segment grew income 42% year-over-year, with margins increasing by 50 basis points. The power systems segment — things like batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles — set a record in the second quarter, with 2.6 million batteries shipped in China, up a whopping 60%.

As a result, JCI increased its earnings guidance for the full year from $3.70-$3.90 to $3.85-$4.00 per share.

And get this: In January 2016, the company announced it would be merging with Tyco (NYSE: TYC), a global fire and security company, to become the leading building products and technology, integrated solutions and energy storage company.

That says a lot for how JCI sees this major trend in energy efficiency investment.

Analysts believe JCI’s earnings will grow at an average annual rate of 11.71% over the next five years. That’s on top of the 10.77% average earnings growth over the past five years.

In other words, JCI earnings could grow from $3.42 in 2015 to $5.95 in 2020, a gain of 73.9%.

Risks to Consider: When it comes to the spin-off, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the timeline. The company hopes to be able to IPO Adient in October 2016. That’s no guarantee, and if there is a hiccup in the timeline, that could adversely affect JCI’s share price.

The company also just settled a bribery case with the SEC for $14.4 million. The case regards JCI’s wholly-owned subsidiary, China Marine. China Marine was bribing Chinese officials and employees of state-owned shipyards to win business.

JCI apparently knew about these bribes when it acquired the company, and did attempt to stop it. It didn’t. And in a rare form of integrity, JCI turned itself in to the SEC in 2013, acknowledging that it didn’t do enough to stop the illegal payments.

That $14.4 million represents 0.15% of the company’s quarterly revenues, so while it’s not a significant financial burden, JCI’s image and PR could be hampered by the finding.

That the company essentially blew the whistle on itself, though, is a good sign moving forward.

Action to Take: Analysts seem to look somewhat favorably on JCI. The company has received two outperform upgrades so far this year, one from Oppenheimer, and most recently, one from Credit Suisse at the end of May.

Share prices have excelled so far this year, climbing 19.4% year-to-date, and actually topping out near $52.50. A move back to this level — which is where ambitious analysts put their price targets — could mean another gain of 19%.

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