3 Worries for BreitBurn Energy Partners' Investors

I recently covered five reasons why you should love oil and gas master limited partnership, or MLP, BreitBurn Energy Partners (NASDAQOTH: BBEPQ  ) . As much as there is to love, no investment is perfect. Today let's take a quick look at three areas investors need to watch.

Because the company pays out almost all of its income to investors, it needs to access the capital markets in order to grow. This creates dilution to existing investors as the company typically will raise equity at a discount. Just last week it offered more than a quarter-billion-dollars' worth of units which were priced at a discount. 

Dilution in the MLP space is to be expected. Midstream heavyweight Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE: EPD  ) had its own equity issuance just days before BreitBurn's offering. Enterprise had also issued equity last September; again, dilution is to be expected. The key for BrietBurn investors to watch is how the capital is put to use. If the company can use it to continue to acquire accretive assets then it's doing so for the good of investors. On the other hand, if the cash just sits there, or even worse, if it's used to buy an asset that doesn't fit into its MLP profile, then investors could indeed get burned. 

Acquisitions and integration
Because BreitBurn's growth will come from acquisitions, its ability to find and execute them will be key to its future success. Last year the company closed more than $400 million in acquisitions and is likely on the prowl for more. It needs to keep the acquisition train going without paying too much for an acquired asset or buying a dud. 

According to oil and gas income-generating peer LINN Energy (NASDAQOTH: LINEQ  ) , there will likely be a robust acquisition market for mature oil and gas assets over the next year and a half. BreitBurn needs to capitalize on deals that will best move the needle. LINN typically does deals that yield a $0.02 accretion to distributable cash flow for every $100 million it spends. BreitBurn needs to have a similar discipline and close deals that increase its distributable cash flow if it is going to be able to sustain and grow it's distribution. 

Dividend secure for now, but...
While I do not think income-seeking investors will be burned by BreitBurn, it is crucial to note that the company has cut its dividend in the past. That was during the financial crisis when the capital markets shut down. Because of BreitBurn's business model, its access to the capital markets is critical to its growth. If another credit crisis hits it could have an impact on the company's ability to continue to pay it distribution.

My Foolish take
I don't see any of the issues I've raised as being major red flags. I simply see them as areas to watch if you plan on owning BreitBurn. All signs point to the company's ability to keep growing and paying that giant 9.5% distribution.

I'd also note the BreitBurn is a bit on the small size, which could impair it's ability to compete for the needle-moving deals it needs in order to grow. Because size does matter when it comes to investing in energy, you'd be remiss not to at least consider Enterprise Products Partners, with its superior integrated asset base. The company can profit from record-low prices for natural gas by taking on large-scale projects that its smaller rivals simply cannot justify. To help investors decide whether Enterprise Products Partners is a buy or a sell today, click here now to check out The Motley Fool's brand-new premium research report on the company.

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