Pipeline Payouts Holding Up

Most companies get a free pass today on cutting their dividend. So far this month nine S&P500 companies have suspended their dividend, with another half dozen making reductions. Goldman Sachs expects S&P500 dividends to be reduced by 25%.

Energy has been hit as much as any sector. Pipeline stocks have fallen hard, with the broad-based American Energy Independence Index (AEITR) down 36% for the year. It has rebounded strongly in April, up 35% so far this month.

Part of the reason is that the dividend story is turning out to be much less bleak than expected. Most big companies have provided updates, and so far only eight have reduced dividends. Only one of those (Macquarie Infrastructure) has suspended its payout. Using their weighting in the AEITR, 20% of the index has lowered dividends.

A pleasant surprise is that 13 companies still pay dividends that are higher than a year ago, representing 64% of the index. This group includes some big names, such as Enbridge, Kinder Morgan (KMI) and Williams Companies (WMB). Some of these have yet to declare a “post-Coronavirus collapse” dividend, but we think those planning to cut have already communicated. KMI had originally planned to increase their dividend by 25%. The fact that they raised it at all last week was welcome news to many investors. The week before, WMB had said they expected to fund this year’s dividend payments and growth spending from internally generated cash.

Most energy infrastructure companies providing updates have reaffirmed prior guidance or lowered it modestly. All have lowered their planned spending on growth projects, and generally the spending reductions are bigger than any forecast drop in EBITDA. Although the rest of the year is too uncertain to make any confident forecasts, a dollar not spent is a dollar of Free Cash Flow (FCF). Prior to coronavirus, we were looking for FCF to double this year (see Updating the Coming Pipeline Cash Gusher) . Lower spending was a key reason, and 20% cuts are common.

Dividend hikes in this environment are surprising. We’re all enduring a crash course in epidemiology, but it’s fair to say that the companies maintaining and raising their dividends are comfortable that these are sustainable based on consensus forecasts of the economic rebound from the Coronavirus. The yield on the AEITR is 10%.

MLPs are only about a third of the pipeline sector. Only two of the ten biggest companies are MLPs —  Energy Transfer and Enterprise Products. Magellan Midstream is another well-run MLP that’s just outside the top ten. But the rest tend to be smaller and more oil focused, with weaker balance sheets and more gathering and processing exposure. This is why 17 MLPs had cut distributions as of last Friday, according to Hinds Howard at CBRE Clarion Securities. Yesterday on Twitter he noted the figure had reached 21.

The bottom line is that the dividend outlook so far is surprisingly positive for midstream energy infrastructure. However, for investors in MLP-dedicated funds or with portfolios heavily weighted towards MLPs, the news hasn’t been as good.

We are invested in all the names mentioned above.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Important Disclosures

The information provided is for informational purposes only and investors should determine for themselves whether a particular service, security or product is suitable for their investment needs. The information contained herein is not complete, may not be current, is subject to change, and is subject to, and qualified in its entirety by, the more complete disclosures, risk factors and other terms that are contained in the disclosure, prospectus, and offering. Certain information herein has been obtained from third party sources and, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified and its accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed. No representation is made with respect to the accuracy,  completeness or timeliness of this information. Nothing provided on this site constitutes tax advice. Individuals should seek the advice of their own tax advisor for specific information regarding tax consequences of investments.  Investments in securities entail risk and are not suitable for all investors. This site is not a recommendation nor an offer to sell (or solicitation of an offer to buy) securities in the United States or in any other jurisdiction.

References to indexes and benchmarks are hypothetical illustrations of aggregate returns and do not reflect the performance of any actual investment. Investors cannot invest in an index and do not reflect the deduction of the advisor’s fees or other trading expenses. There can be no assurance that current investments will be profitable. Actual realized returns will depend on, among other factors, the value of assets and market conditions at the time of disposition, any related transaction costs, and the timing of the purchase. Indexes and benchmarks may not directly correlate or only partially relate to portfolios managed by SL Advisors as they have different underlying investments and may use different strategies or have different objectives than portfolios managed by SL Advisors (e.g. The Alerian index is a group MLP securities in the oil and gas industries. Portfolios may not include the same investments that are included in the Alerian Index. The S & P Index does not directly relate to investment strategies managed by SL Advisers.)

This site may contain forward-looking statements relating to the objectives, opportunities, and the future performance of the U.S. market generally. Forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of such words as; “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “should,” “planned,” “estimated,” “potential” and other similar terms. Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, estimates with respect to financial condition, results of operations, and success or lack of success of any particular investment strategy. All are subject to various factors, including, but not limited to general and local economic conditions, changing levels of competition within certain industries and markets, changes in interest rates, changes in legislation or regulation, and other economic, competitive, governmental, regulatory and technological factors affecting a portfolio’s operations that could cause actual results to differ materially from projected results. Such statements are forward-looking in nature and involves a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, and accordingly, actual results may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Prospective investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements or examples. None of SL Advisors LLC or any of its affiliates or principals nor any other individual or entity assumes any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, subsequent events or any other circumstances. All statements made herein speak only as of the date that they were made. r

Certain hyperlinks or referenced websites on the Site, if any, are for your convenience and forward you to third parties’ websites, which generally are recognized by their top level domain name. Any descriptions of, references to, or links to other products, publications or services does not constitute an endorsement, authorization, sponsorship by or affiliation with SL Advisors LLC with respect to any linked site or its sponsor, unless expressly stated by SL Advisors LLC. Any such information, products or sites have not necessarily been reviewed by SL Advisors LLC and are provided or maintained by third parties over whom SL Advisors LLC exercise no control. SL Advisors LLC expressly disclaim any responsibility for the content, the accuracy of the information, and/or quality of products or services provided by or advertised on these third-party sites.

All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment will be suitable or profitable for a client’s investment portfolio.

Past performance of the American Energy Independence Index is not indicative of future returns.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
1 reply
  1. moron
    moron says:

    “However, for investors (in MLP-dedicated funds or) with portfolios heavily weighted towards MLPs, the news hasn’t been as good.” Really? ET, EPD!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.