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At the end of 2011 I selected Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMI ) as my top energy stock for 2012. It performed adequately, finishing 8% higher at year's end, up 11% with dividends reinvested. Though an S&P tracking index fund would have performed better, Kinder Morgan's performance was still pretty good and greatly outperformed what is essentially a 0% interest rate on my savings account.
Thing is, I never bought any shares.
While there are a variety of reasons for not buying something (and there always will be), I'm making an adjustment to my top energy pick for this year. I am supplementing my 2013 choice by putting some skin in the game and buying units of Plains All American Pipeline (NYSE: PAA ) .
Skin in the game
Naturally, I'm not going to buy every stock I write about, and not just because I don't slap buy recommendations onto the end of every article, because different portfolios need different stocks at different times. For example, young investors are encouraged to take on more risk than older investors; a portfolio full of growth stocks may need a value play, and vice versa. We're all different, and we should acknowledge that when we read about investments. The mere fact that I am buying Plains doesn't mean everyone should load up on shares of PAA tomorrow.
But does it make sense for me to continuously write about what a great investment opportunity Plains All American is, yet never buy any myself? If the stock is so exceptional, why don't I own it?
And so, as I have said before, I expect Plains to perform well in 2013. As I have not said before, I plan to initiate a position in the coming weeks.
Why I'm buying
I'm buying Plains for what boils down to one main reason: management. Every time I bury my head in a Plains press release or presentation, I find a lot of things to like. But the No. 1 thought that occurs to me each and every time is the same: Plains All American is run extremely well.
The partnership has high-quality assets in the most important growth plays, but it is also connected to markets that are traditionally served by oil imports and would therefore love to get their hands on cheap, domestic oil. Rail facilities in California on the West Coast and Virginia on the East Coast are two examples of these nontraditional market access points.
Plains also has assets in shale plays that will probably receive much more attention in the coming years when things calm down in the Bakken and the Eagle Ford. Building a presence in Colorado's Niobrara Shale and California's Monterey Shale are examples of the sort of foresight that management has shown time and time again.
Perhaps the thing I like best about Plains is that it shares that exceptional vision with investors. I learn more about U.S. macro energy trends from Plains' presentations than I do from reading the pages of any newspaper. Plains explains what's happening, where it's happening, and how the partnership is positioned to take advantage. Investors come away with an understanding of not only the business, but also what's driving the business, which is how it should be.
In addition, though I love my rose-colored glasses, management typically tells it like it is. For example, there are risks and limitations to the oil-by-rail movement that's going on right now, and as you read through Plains rail asset presentation, you come away with a pretty strong understanding of that as well.
It's almost as if management has skin in the game.
Buy and hold-ish
Although I have a lot of confidence in this company, I'm prepared to completely re-evaluate my position every six months. The energy world is an unpredictable beast, and volatile commodity prices can have serious effects on certain elements of Plains' business mix, and domestic energy production volumes in general, which in turn can trigger serious effects on different elements of the midstream industry. It is impossible to know what the future holds, but revisiting my investment thesis and being prepared with an exit strategy is a good way to mitigate the certainty of uncertainty.
I'd like to open a position in Plains before the company reports its fourth quarter and annual report, which happens Feb. 6. I still have some minor details to sort out, namely how many units I feel comfortable purchasing at a given price, and what my exit strategy will be. As the year progresses, I'll continue to monitor Plains and share the good and bad with readers who may have, or consider putting, some skin in the game.
What's inside Supernova?
This Fool's top stock of 2012, Kinder Morgan was also a recent selection of Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner, helping lead his stock picks to gains of more than 113% in our Stock Advisor service since it launched in 2002. Those returns have beaten the market by more than 87%. David has managed to trounce the market by always being on the lookout for revolutionary stocks and recommending them before Wall Street catches on to their disruptive potential. If you're interested in how David discovers his winners, click here to get instant access to a personal tour behind David's Supernova service.