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Utilities are often viewed as regimented, boring and plain as vanilla. Still, what’s wrong with that? The point of investing is to attain a certain rate of return given a certain level of risk. Whether a stock or sector is boring or hot is irrelevant in our view. All we care about is whether the company is profitable and that it meets an investor's objectives. Luckily, given the markets recent gyrations this has provided investors with the opportunity to look at some utility firms today with much lower prices.

The Operating Profit Margin is a profitability metric that measures a firm’s efficiency. This ratio provides investors with a quick snap shot of what a firm is left with relative to profits after variable costs are deducted. Finding firms that hold a high operating profit margin or that illustrates an upward trend over time is one indication that it could be a great firm and deserves further review.

We first ran a screen for utility stocks that have retained a high degree of profitability (one-year fiscal operating margin>15%) despite economic uncertainty and fluctuations. From this narrowed pool of names we then looked for firms that were trading no higher than 20% above their 52-week low. We did not screen out any firms by market capitalization.

The operating profit margin ranks the firms from highest to lowest:

1. National Electricity Company (EOC)

Sector

Utilities

Industry

Utilities - Regulated Electric

Market Cap

$12,018M

Beta

0.42

The firm generates electric for multiple countries in South America. The company’s operating margin is 36.57%. EOC is trading 11.91% above its 52-week low. The short interest was N/A as of 09/30/2011.

2. Basic Sanitation Company (NYSE:SBS)

Sector

Utilities

Industry

Utilities - Regulated Water

Market Cap

$5,743M

Beta

1.23

The firm provides water and sewage services to the State of Sao Paulo in Brazil. The company’s operating margin is 28.95%. SBS is trading 12.62% above its 52-week low. The short interest was N/A as of 09/30/2011.

3. Energy Company of Minas Gerais. (NYSE:CIG)

Sector

Utilities

Industry

Utilities - Diversified

Market Cap

$10,618M

Beta

0.71

The firm generates and distributes electric power in Brazil. The company’s operating margin is 28.35%. CIG is trading 10.91% above its 52-week low. The short interest was N/A as of 09/30/2011.

4. National Grid PLC. (NYSE:NGG)

Sector

Utilities

Industry

Utilities - Regulated Electric

Market Cap

$36,885M

Beta

0.64

The firm owns and operates regulated electricity and gas networks in both the U.S. and U.K. The company’s operating margin is 26.11%. NGG is trading 19.53% above its 52-week low. The short interest was N/A as of 09/30/2011.

5. Enersis SA. (NYSE:ENI)

Sector

Utilities

Industry

Utilities - Regulated Electric

Market Cap

$12,035M

Beta

0.36

The firm generates and distributes electric for multiple countries in South America. The company’s operating margin is 25.97%. ENI is trading 16.57% above its 52-week low. The short interest was N/A as of 09/30/2011.

6. Cleco Corporation. (NYSE:CNL)

Sector

Utilities

Industry

Utilities - Regulated Electric

Market Cap

$2,156M

Beta

0.44

Th firm is a regional energy services holding company in the U.S. The company’s operating margin is 25.71%. CNL is trading 17.50% above its 52-week low. The short interest was N/A as of 09/30/2011.

7. Exelon Corp. (NYSE:EXC)

Sector

Utilities

Industry

Utilities - Diversified

Market Cap

$28,310M

Beta

0.51

The firm is a utility services holding company in the U.S. The company’s operating margin is 25.35 %. EXC is trading 9.40 % above its 52-week low. The short interest was 4.50% as of 09/30/2011.

8. Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG)

Sector

Utilities

Industry

Utilities - Diversified

Market Cap

$16,902M

Beta

0.42

The firm has four principal direct wholly owned subsidiaries that relate to power generation and distribution. The company’s operating margin is 24.90%. PEG is trading 19.45% above its 52-week low. The short interest was 2.00% as of 09/30/2011.

9. CPFL Energy SA. (NYSE:CPL)

Sector

Utilities

Industry

Utilities - Diversified

Market Cap

$11,538M

Beta

0.70

The firm generates, distributes and commercializes electricity within Brazil. The company’s operating margin is 22.78%. CPL is trading 11.85% above its 52-week low. The short interest was N/A as of 09/30/2011.

10. Transportadora de Gas del Sur. (NYSE:TGS)

Sector

Utilities

Industry

Utilities - Regulated Gas

Market Cap

$477M

Beta

1.14

The firm produces, transports and sells both natural gas and natural gas liquids in Argentina. The company’s operating margin is 21.98%. TGS is trading 11.11% above its 52-week low. The short interest was N/A as of 09/30/2011.

We hope this list helps as investors do their own due diligence on utilities firms that are trading near their 52-week lows and illustrate strong profitability.

Source: 10 Battered Yet Profitable Utility Stocks Offering Good Value To Investors