Midstream had another week of underperformance. MLPs gave up last week’s modest gains and more. The weakness had little to do with fundamentals. Oil prices rallied, and earnings results were strong overall, especially from ETP and Pembina. The weakness came from reminders of persistent structural headwinds: complicated simplifications (EQM this week), and stubbornly high leverage driving distribution cuts (MIC this week).
The MLP Index hit its lowest point since 12/7 and is just 5.2% above its 11/29 low, although that’s better than the S&P 500 (+4.6%) over that time. Distributions add another 2% for 7.2% return off the bottom. So, through that slightly wider lens, MLP performance hasn’t been terrible, but the 12.6% decline from the 1/23 peak has been pretty terrible.
Poll Question Recap
Thanks to all who voted on last week’s poll question. The responses were abundant, and the results interesting. While most said the primary reason they still care about MLPs for their exposure to energy infrastructure themes (57% of respondents), 36% of respondents said it was the MLP structure itself.
It’s good to know there is more than one reason for people to concern themselves with MLPs. It’s also good to know that so many of you out there that still care about MLPs.
Winners & Losers
The top 5 MLPs this week included no traditional midstream MLPs (two marine transportation MLPs, two compression MLPs, and CELP). Those outliers were likely driven by ongoing recovery of compression fundamentals and oil prices. The bottom 5 had clearer catalysts. SMLP reported underwhelming results and guidance. EQM disappointed with its complification strategic announcement that offered no IDR simplification and no valuation details on the series of planned transactions announced. ENLK hit pre-announced results, but was likely hurt by sponsor Devon’s results and selloff. GEL and MMLP likely sold off on their association with “bottom-of-the-barrel” businesses that gave Macquarie (MIC) serious trouble.
TOO showed up near the top for a second straight week. MMLP went from top 5 to bottom 5 from last week to this week. On the YTD leaderboard looks very similar to the weekly top 5, with non-traditional and non-index MLPs dominating. SMLP and EQM joined the bottom 5 this week, while BWP and VLP escaped the bottom 5.
General Partners & Midstream Corporations
The GP and midstream corporation group underperformed MLPs and Canada this week. I don’t include MIC as a midstream corporation, because of its wide-ranging portfolio of assets that include private airport and utility assets and a shrinking amount of midstream contribution. That being said, MIC (and its 39% weekly decline) was clearly a factor in midstream trading this week, because its midstream assets were the cause of the 31% dividend cut announced this week. MIC is a large weight in the AMEI index that I refence above as a reasonable proxy for midstream overall, and it was obviously a big driver of that index’s dramatic underperformance this week.
OKE announced $2.3bn of projects and was one of two positive names in the group. SEMG dropped more than 10% Thursday as the market searched for readthroughs from the MIC announcement. TEGP repeated in the bottom 5, and has overtaken the bottom spot YTD.
Canadian Midstream Corporations
Pembina’s strong results sent it to the top of the group in Canada for this week. Recent enthusiasm in KML trading abated this week, sending its shares down 4.7%.
On the YTD leaderboard, ENB and IPL remain down double digits for the year, while KML remains the only positive return in the group for the year.
News of the (Midstream) World
Trends reinforced by this week’s MLP news: Limited capital markets activity, new project announcements, ongoing efforts to simplify MLP structures, asset sales and environmental challenges to pipeline projects.
Growth Projects / M&A