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Feb 22nd, 2015

MLP Market Post

MLP Week Thoughts: Refreshing Expectations

MLPs rebounded this week, with most of the gain came on Friday when MLPs rallied despite lower oil prices.  The Alerian MLP Index (AMZ) traded up 0.7% for the week, and is now 3.0% higher than the February low from last Wednesday.  Performance was better among midstream MLPs than upstream MLPs, and better among larger MLPs, with significant differentiation among winners and losers within subsectors.

Weekly MLP Review_2-20-15

The S&P 500 posted a third consecutive positive week up 0.6% to new highs, while utilities posted 1.0% gains for the week. Oil prices finished 4.6% lower this week on continued U.S. inventory builds, and the latest rig count reports that apparently weren’t draconian enough to sustain a fourth consecutive positive week for oil prices.  Continued cold weather helped natural gas prices spike, up 9.6% this week and 17.1% since hitting a 52-week low two weeks ago.  Cold weather has also helped propane price change this year outpace all other energy commodities.

Top Tier Over the Years

Last week, I ranked MLPs that have paid a distribution for at least a year (so not including recent IPOs) based on their historical annual distribution growth rates.  Top Tier MLPs are growing quite rapidly, with each of the top 20 MLPs growing distributions at an annual rate of more than 15%.

I was curious about how that top tier looked 5, 10, and 15 years ago.  I have run the numbers and below I share the summary results.  The number of fast growing MLPs has expanded along with the universe of MLPs, but the percentage of MLPs growing more than 15% annually has been higher than it is today before (in 2005).

Top Tier Summary

Other takeaways:

  • MLP distribution growth rates were quite low exiting 2009 after the financial crisis sent commodity prices tumbling. MLPs appear better positioned this time around based on 2015 guidance so far.
  • In 2000, there were still many MLPs content not to grow distributions at all, about half of the universe of 19 MLPs had not grown distributions at all in the 3 years prior to 2000. This was the very early stages of the growth MLP model.  (KMP led the way with 32.0% 3 year CAGR, followed by BPL at 17% and Teppco Partners at 15%).
  • 2005 was close to the apex of the first round of growth MLPs that were able to grow consistently by acquiring assets from third parties. Once more MLPs came to market, competition for acquisitions heated up, and the sector started shifting towards “organic” growth and drop-down acquisitions.
  • 2015 growth MLPs rely on sponsor-driven growth (i.e. drop downs). 17 of the top 20 fastest growing MLPs today achieved their growth with the assistance of drop downs. In 2010, just 7 out of 20 relied on drop downs.  In 2005 and 2000, drop-down MLPs were even scarcer.

Another Obtuse Index Change

Alerian announced BWP to be added to the 50-member Alerian MLP Index and Alerian MLP Equal Weight Index, replacing APL (press release).  BWP was removed from the index last year after cutting its distribution drastically. Prior to its removal, BWP had been in the index since December 2005 (just a month after its IPO in November 2005, before there were 50 MLPs trading).  BWP does not currently pay its minimum quarterly distribution, which is a criteria for inclusion in the index.  I guess there were no MLPs that met all the qualifications for inclusion, so BWP may have been added because it checked the most boxes of Alerian’s criteria (found here).

Expect more turnover with the index going forward, assuming that distribution cuts beyond the MQD disqualify VNR, EVEP, LINE and BBEP from inclusion in the next rebalancing, and assuming the ETP/RGP deal closes.  Below is a chart that highlights the changes to the index since the beginning of 2014, which highlights the massive turnover and the weight redistribution towards large caps, but also some names getting shuffled in and out of the index (yellow shaded names).

AMZ Turnover

Winners & Losers

TEP announced solid results and surprised the market by giving 3 year guidance for 20%+ distribution growth annually.  RMP caught a bid this week, presumably on stronger gas prices and a possible read through to higher volumes.  PBFX continues to climb higher after its big distribution announcement last week.  Better results out of MEP caught the market by surprise, sending its units higher.

On the downside, upstream MLPs VNR and NSLP were dragged down by lower oil prices, but we aren’t seeing the wide daily swings in upstream MLPs that we saw a few weeks ago.  CMLP was down on news that a customer that represents 10% of EBITDA may finally throw in the towel and go CH 11.   EQM seems to be suffering from some GP overhang, down 6.7% this week.  PSXP’s offering contributed to its weakness.


NSLP went from top performer to near the bottom on weaker oil prices this week.  MEP made it two weeks in a row in the top 5.


Year to date, small cap, high beta MLPs dominate the top and bottom 5.  Of note, I have not included NKA and RNO in these charts and will not going forward.  Generally stocks that trade below $5.00 and pay little or no distribution show up on these charts because of volatility, but are mostly meaningless to MLP investors, so it makes sense to exclude them to get a better picture of what’s moving among significant MLPs.


DPM and WLKP escaped the bottom 5 this week, while CELP and NMM made the cut for the top 5, displacing NSLP and LRE.


News of the (MLP) World

Reports of 4Q2014 results were again the focus this week. Results and stock price reactions were mixed, but the market generally reacted positively to receiving clarity on 2015 capital expenditure and distribution growth plans.   While trading volumes in MLPs have trended down over the last few months, the capital markets remain open to MLPs, confirmed by a $396mm equity offering from PSXP.



  • Phillips 66 Partners (PSXP) priced public offering of 5.25mm units at $75.50/unit, raising $396.4mm in gross proceeds (press release)
    • One day marketed offering, with a file-to-price decline of 4.2%, and PSXP traded down 0.7% the following day
    • Proceeds to be used to partially fund the drop down acquisition announced this week


  • Phillips 66 Partners (PSXP) priced $1.1bn of senior notes, including (press release):
    • $300mm 2.646% senior notes due 2020 at par
    • $500mm 3.605% senior notes due 2025 at 99.967% of par
    • $300mm 4.680% senior notes due 2045 at 99.953% of par

M&A / Growth Projects

  • EnLink Midstream (ENLK) announced drop down of additional 25% interest in EnLink Midstream Holdings for $925mm (press release)
    • ENLK has been very active lately, this transaction represents the 3rd acquisition of 2015 for ENLK and the 5th acquisition in the last 6 months
    • 100% equity financed with the issuance of 31.9mm units to sponsor EnLink Midstream LLC (ENLC)
    • ENLK now owns 75% of EMH, with ENLC holding the remaining 25%
    • Acquisition price represents a 9x multiple of expected 2015 EBITDA
  • Phillips 66 Partners (PSXP) announced acquisition of interests in 3 pipeline systems from sponsor for $1.01bn (press release)
    • PSXP will acquire 1/3rd interest in Sand Hills and Southern Hills NGL pipeline companies and a 19.5% interest in the Explorer pipeline
    • Financed with $880mm of cash (funded with debt and equity issuances above) and 1.7mm units issued to PSX
    • Acquisition price represents 9.5x multiple of expected 2015 EBITDA
  • Sunoco Logistics (SXL) announced the acquisition of 40% of the West Texas Gulf oil pipeline system for $456mm (press release)
    • SXL owned 60% of the pipeline already, and now owns 100%
    • Acquisition closed in two separate transactions in December and January
    • The pipeline system connects Permian Basin produced oil to multiple markets across Texas
  • NGL Energy (NGL) announced plans to increase the size of Grand Mesa oil pipeline to a higher capacity 20-inch diameter design (press release)
    • Increase in size of the pipeline will increase the capacity from 130,000 bbls/day to 200,000 bbls/d
    • Grand Mesa is currently under construction and expected to be completed by 4Q 2016
  • ARC Logistics (ARCX) announced acquisition of an oil terminal in Joliet, Illinois in a JV with GE Energy Financial Services (press release)
    • Financed in part with a PIPE of $75mm with “institutional investors” at $17.00/unit
    • ARCX closed at $19.82 Friday, up 7.7% on the day, but representing unrealized gains for the PIPE investors of 16.6%
    • Acquisition represents 9.0x EBITDA for its portion of the acquisition ($130mm)
    • Assets supported by 3-year contracts with a major oil company and with minimum volume commitments


Feb 15th, 2015

MLP Market Post

MLP Week Thoughts: Top Tier

The MLP Index stumbled this week, but the index remains up 2.8% for the month so far, on track to post its first positive month since August. The index has produced negative 13.9% total return since the end of August, but has rallied 9.4% (including distributions) since January 15th. Performance was balanced across the sector as midstream MLP earnings reports helped them gain traction, while upstream and oilfield services MLPs continued higher with oil prices starting mid-week.

Weekly MLP Review_2-13-15

The S&P 500 posted a second consecutive positive week up 2.0% to new highs, while utilities declined for the second straight week and finished down 3.4%.  Oil prices were volatile but climbed higher Thursday and Friday and 2.1% for the week, making it three positive weeks in a row.  Natural gas spot price rebounded 6.8% this week after 3 straight weeks of declines, with expected cold weather in the northeastern U.S. the likely driver.

In the upcoming week, some very large and active MLPs are set to report earnings, including: ETP/ETE/SXL, WPZ, and ENLK.

What is Top Tier?

Top tier growth is oft alluded to in the MLP sector, and the more hyper growth drop-down MLPs that go public, the higher the hurdle rate is for making it into the top tier club.   But when an MLP guides to “top-tier” distribution growth, what does that mean?  Below I’ve gathered some data on the top 20 MLPs that have paid at least a year’s worth of distributions, so several of the self-proclaimed top-tier MLPs (e.g. DM, SHLX, CPPL, etc) are not included.

The top 20 fastest distribution growth MLPs over the last year have increased their distributions by an average of 26.9%, while the top 5 averaged 44.8% growth.  On a 3 year CAGR (or shorter if the MLP has not traded for 3 full years), the top 20 fastest growing MLPs have grown distributions at an annual rate of 22%, with 31.5% average for the top 5.

MLP Top Tier

Of the 100 or so MLPs included in this analysis, it’s pretty incredible that 20% of them have grown distributions more than 15% annually over the last few years.  With new high-growth MLPs and with consolidation of smaller MLPs, the top tier looks like it will push higher for the next few years, and a quarter of all MLPs may grow 15% or more.  Visibility into that kind of growth from sponsor-driven distribution growth helps mitigate impact of commodity prices, at least for a little while until the drop-downs slow down for some of these MLPs.

What about GPs?  There are only 11 (for now) pure play or nearly pure play GPs that I track.  The average growth rate of those over the last year is 30.5%, and 24.4% over 3 years.  The top 5 have grown even faster, with average YOY growth of 45.5% and 33% over 3 years.

GP Top Tier

Next week, I’ll come back with some analysis of how the “top-tier” annual distribution growth rate has changed over time.  MLPs may have achieved growth rates this high, but driven by third party acquisitions (which were much less competitive back then).  No MLPs publicly-guided to 20%+ distribution growth a decade ago.

Winners & Losers

MLPs in the same subsector went in different directions this week, a symptom of the volatility we’re seeing week to week.  Coal MLP RNO rallied 11.4% while coal MLP NRP declined 12%.  Upstream MLP NSLP led all MLPs with a 23.9% gain, while upstream MLPs BBEP and EVEP each made the bottom five.


3 of the bottom 5 were up 25%+ last week, so a selloff was understandable for BBEP, JPEP and EVEP.


For the year overall, CCLP has claimed the top spot from LINE, while FISH, NSLP and LRE join the top 5.



NRP replaced TOO in the bottom 5 this week.




News of the (MLP) World

This week we got the first follow-on equity offering to trade up after pricing so far this year.  Not a bad indicator for the state of the capital markets.  We got another couple of third party acquisitions and a sizeable drop-down.  Also, as has become almost as routine as MLP IPOs, we got another Alerian MLP Index constituent change.



  • Rose Rock Midstream (RRMS) priced public offering of 2.0mm units at $40.32/unit, raising $80.6mm in gross proceeds (press release)
    • Overnight offering, priced at 4.0% discount to prior close
    • RRMS traded up 2.9% in the session following pricing
  • As previously discussed by EQT Corp, EQT GP Holdings, LP (EQGP) filed an initial prospectus to raise up to $300mm in an IPO (filing)
    • EQGP will own 34.4% L.P. interest, the 2.0% G.P. interest and all of the incentive distribution rights of EQT Midstream Partners (EQM)
    • IPO is expected to be for approximately 18-20% of the outstanding units
    • Structured as a partnership
  • Sol-Wind Renewable Power LP (SLWD) postponed IPO (The Deal)
    • A yieldco in an MLP wrapper, SLWD was attempting to raise $174mm at $20/unit (6.5%)
    • Price talk trended lower and the deal was pulled on weak demand, a stark contrast from the largest ever MLP IPO (CPPL) that priced above the price range last week


  • Suburban Propane (SPH) priced $250mm of 5.75% senior notes due 2025 at par (press release)
    • SPH will use the proceeds to fund a cash tender for $250mm of its outstanding 7.375% senior notes due 2020

M&A / Growth Projects

  • Rose Rock Midstream (RRMS) announced drop-down acquisition from SemGroup (SEMG) for $325mm (press release)
    • Assets acquired include the Wattenburg Oil Trunkline System and SemGroup’s 50% interest in the Glass Mountain Pipeline
    • Purchase price will be funded with 1.75mm units issued to SEMG, cash and net proceeds from the above equity offering
    • Wattenburg Oil Trunkline is a 75-mile oil pipeline in the DJ Basin, which transports production from Noble Energy to the White Cliffs Pipeline
    • Glass Mountain is a 210-mile oil pipeline system that comprises two lateral pipelines originating in the Granite Wash and Mississippi Lime plays
  • Kinder Morgan (KMI) announced the acquisition of three terminals and one undeveloped site from Royal Vopak for approximately $158mm (press release)
    • Assets include a storage complex in Galena Park, TX, two terminals on the coast of North Carolina and an undeveloped site at Perth Amboy, NJ
    • Galena Park assets are adjacent to KMI’s Galena Park complex
  • NGL Energy (NGL) announced $280mm acquisition of Magnum NGLs, LLC from Haddington Ventures, LLC (press release)
    • Magnum owns and operates a NGL storage facility with potential capacity of more than 10mm barrels
    • Facility is located southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah with rail and truck access to Western US market
    • NGL will finance the transaction with $80mm in cash and $200mm worth of units issued to the seller
    • Transaction represents a 7.1x multiple of 2017 estimated EBITDA, and is expected to be neutral to distributable cash flow per unit initially, and accretive thereafter


  • Alerian announced EXLP to be added to the Alerian MLP Index and Alerian MLP Equal Weight Index, replacing OILT (press release)
  • Cushing announces changes to the Cushing MLP High Income Index and the Cushing 30 MLP Index to replace Atlas Pipeline Partners (APL) (press release)
    • CCLP to join the Cushing MLP High Income Index
    • BWP to join the Cushing 30 MLP Index
    • Changes will be effective 2/23/15, assuming the Targa / Atlas deals are all approved
  • Williams Partners announces Geismer back on line (press release)

Feb 8th, 2015

MLP Market Post

MLP Week Thoughts: We are All Patriots

MLPs traded well this week, helped by firming crude oil prices, outperforming the broader stock market and utilities for the second straight week. The Alerian MLP Index (AMZ) increased 3.7% (including distributions) and the Alerian MLP Equal Weight Index (AMZE) was up 6.1%.  Strong price performance by upstream MLPs helped AMZE post positive performance.  The AMZE has now produced 12.9% total return in 17 days, while AMZ has produced 10.3% return.  The S&P 500 rebounded 3.0%, while utilities finished down 4.1%.  Oil prices finished 7.9% higher this week, making it two positive weeks in a row for oil prices.  Natural gas spot price continued to slide, down 4.1% to a new 52-week low.

Weekly MLP Review_2-6-15

MLP earnings season continues this week (and for a few more weeks after that) with several interesting MLPs to report, including NGLS, TLLP and BWP.

Patriot Parallels

MLPs are a bit like the New England Patriots.  More specifically, they are like the Patriots of Week 5 of this NFL season.  After more than a decade of sustained success, 5 Super Bowl appearances and 3 wins, the Patriots started the season 2-2.  The sports media began questioning the Patriots.  Was this the year they falter and Brady loses the ability to lead his team to victories?  Would Belichick ever be able to win a Super Bowl without cheating?

The Patriots responded, winning 9 games in a row, getting the top seed in the playoffs, and capping the season by winning the Super Bowl in dramatic fashion.  In doing so they became the youngest team to win a super bowl ever.  Only 2 current players were on the team the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl.  This year’s outperformance was made possible by younger players like Edelman, Gronkowski and Malcolm Butler.


MLPs have produced exceptional returns for investors for decades, providing income and growth, through good times and bad times.  But over the last 5 months, MLPs have struggled, and many are questioning their ability to continue to produce market beating returns going forward.

As earnings have been released and it has become clear that MLPs will continue to grow distributions in this environment, MLPs have begun to rally over the last few weeks.  Obviously oil prices rallying 16.2% in 7 days helps.  But after more than 60 MLP IPOs in 5 years, there are now more MLPs under 5 years old than over 5 years old, and the average age of all MLPs is around 6.6 years (3.6 years median).  The youth movement in MLPs positions the sector for revitalized growth.  Like the Patriots, the drivers of outperformance in the MLP sector going forward will be the younger players, MLPs that were not on the team the last time MLPs outperformed the S&P 500 (4 years ago!).

Winners & Losers

NKA suspending its distribution sent the stock down 58.8% this week. No other MLP was down double digits this week.  On the upside, there were many double digit performing MLPs this week, including the top five, which were all up more than 25% each, and for the second straight week they were mostly upstream MLPs.  LGCY and BBEP each made the top 5 for consecutive weeks.



LINE has taken the lead among MLP returns for the year so far, joined by JPEP and NMM, two small cap MLPs that have had positive company-specific announcements in recent weeks.  On the downside, DPM recovered a bit, but remains the worst performing MLP this year among those with more than a $3bn market cap.


Quite a bit of movement week over week for YTD return leaders and laggards.  NKA went from first to worst, EVEP bounced all the way from last place to out of the bottom 5.  Not a single member of the top 5 YTD as of last week, remains in the bottom 5.  Wild swings.


News of the (MLP) World

The week was highlighted by the first MLP IPO of the year, Columbia Pipeline Partners (CPPL – Natural Gas Pipeline & Storage MLP), which was successful by any measure.  The offering was upsized, was priced $2/unit above the offering price range and traded up 16.5% on its first trading day.  In the end it was the second largest MLP IPO ever at $1.1bn.


  • Columbia Pipeline Partners (CPPL) priced initial public offering of 46.8mm common units at $23.00/unit, raising $1.1bn in gross proceeds (final prospectus)
    • Initial yield of 2.91%, based on a minimum quarterly distribution of $0.1675 ($0.67 annualized), which is the third lowest IPO yield ever for an MLP
    • Offering was upsized from initial offering of 40.0mm units
    • $1.1bn is the second largest MLP IPO ever
    • CPPL owns a 14.6% interest in the natural gas pipeline business assets of publicly-traded utility company NiSource
    • CPPL expects to be able to grow distributions more than 20% for the next 5 years based on $4.9bn of development projects it will be participating in as part of its 14.6% interest
  • Navios Maritime (NMM) priced public offering of 4.0mm common units at $52.4mm in gross proceeds (press release)
    • Offering was priced at a 4.5% discount to the prior closing price, and traded down another 1.1% from pricing the following day


  • Western Refining Logistics (WNRL) priced $300mm of 7.5% senior notes due 2023 at par (press release)

M&A / Growth Projects

  • EnLink Midstream (ENLK) announced $600mm acquisition of Permian Basin gathering & processing operator Coronado Midstream Holdings LLC (press release)
    • Coronado operates 3 natural gas processing plants and a 270-mile natural gas gathering pipeline system
    • Coronado was owned by a group of Permian producers that includes Diamondback Energy, Inc., Reliance Energy, Inc. and RSP Permian, Inc.
    • ENLK expects that acquisition to reflect a 7-8x EBITDA multiple over the next few years after ENLK spends an additional $400-$600mm to build out the system
  • Plains All American Pipeline (PAA) announced two new pipeline projects (press release)
    • PAA plans to build pipelines to transport oil and condensate from the Delaware Basin, and additional Permian Basin pipeline expansions
    • These pipeline expansions and additions are expected to be in-service at various points in late 2015 and early 2016
    • No cost estimates were announced, just part of the general plumbing necessary in the basins in which PAA operates and part of PAA’s $1.85bn 2015 capital budget
  • JP Energy Partners (JPEP) announced new oil gathering agreement in Midland Basin, and $36mm in capital spending in 2015 to support the agreement (press release)
    • 10-year fee-based gathering agreement with Discovery Natural Resources, LLC to construct and operate an extension of its Silver Dollar Pipeline gathering system
    • Project expected to be in-service by second half of 2015