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Sunoco LP (NYSE:SUN)
Q3 2019 Earnings Call
Nov 7, 2019, 10:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Greetings and welcome to Sunoco LP Third Quarter 2019 Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions] A brief question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation. [Operator Instructions] Please note this conference is being recorded.

At this time, I'll turn the conference over to Scott Grischow, Vice President of Investor Relations and Treasury. You may now begin.

Scott Grischow -- Vice President-Investor Relations and Treasury

Thank you and good morning everyone.

On the call with me this morning are Joe Kim, Sunoco LP's, President and Chief Executive Officer; Tom Miller, Chief Financial Officer; Karl Fails, Chief Operations Officer and other members of management team.

A reminder, that today's call will contain forward-looking statements subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially. Please refer to our earnings release as well as our filings with the SEC for a list of these factors.

During today's call, we will also discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures. Including adjusted EBITDA and distributable cash flow as adjusted. Please refer to the Sunoco LP website for a reconciliation of each financial measure.

Before I turn the call over to Tom, I will review this quarter's financial and operating results. For the quarter, the Partnership recorded net income of $66 million. Third quarter 2019 adjusted EBITDA was $192 million compared with third quarter 2018 of $208 million. Third quarter 2018 results included a one-time cash benefit of approximately $25 million related to a settlement with a fuel supplier. If you remove this onetime benefit this quarter's adjusted EBITDA would have increased $192 million from $183 million a year ago.

Third quarter, distributable cash flow as adjusted was $133 million. On October 25th, we declared in $82.55 per unit distribution, the same as last quarter.

Looking at our operational performance, fuel volume in the third quarter totaled a record high of 2.11 billion gallons of 5% from a year ago, driven by the contribution of our 2018 acquisitions, organic growth and gross profit optimization efforts. Fuel margin was $0.116 per gallon, excluding last year's $25 million one-time cash benefit, fuel margin increased by $0.2 per gallon from a year ago.

I will now turn the call over to Tom.

Thomas R. Miller -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks Scott and good morning everyone. We delivered strong results in the third quarter. Let me put these results in context.

We sold record volumes with margins above our annual guidance range. Although we're well into our gross profit optimization efforts, we still see tangible benefits. We continue to sign up new customers with long-term contracts to quickly deliver added EBITDA. And at the same time, we remain focused on controlling expenses that allow these strong results to drop to the bottom line. For the third quarter, total operating expenses were $134 million down 4% from a year ago.

For 2019, we expect to be well below our previous annual guidance of $540 million.

Moving to capital maintenance spend totaled $13 million for the quarter and we expect to be around $40 million for the year. Growth capital totaled $33 million in the quarter, for 2019 we expect to spend at least $115 million. When you factor in an additional investment in J.C. Nolan of approximately $45 million. Our 2019 investment in growth projects will total roughly $160 million.

We continue to fine and deliver high return organic investment opportunities. These organic fuel distribution investments have been done with attractive returns consistent with our historical fuel distribution roll-up acquisitions. Looking forward, we expect to invest in additional organic projects while remaining within the confines of our financially disciplined framework.

On the subject of leverage and coverage, our third quarter leverage was 4.5 times, including the investment made in J.C. Nolan joint venture. As Scott mentioned earlier, our DCF as adjusted was $133 million, yielding a third quarter coverage ratio of 1.5 with trailing 12 month coverage of 1.3.

Finally, based on the strength of our year-to-date results and our expectations for the fourth quarter, we now project full year 2019 adjusted EBITDA to be at the high end or above our previously guided range of $610 million to $650 million.

With that, I'll now turn the call over to Joe for his closing thoughts. Joe?

Joseph Kim -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Tom, and good morning everyone.

We delivered a very strong third quarter, we had record volumes strong margins, while executing on tight cost controls. Our underlying business is strong. The resiliency of our business through different commodity environment has been highly evident since the 7-11 transaction. We have delivered quality results quarter after quarter and more importantly, we expect this to continue.

Looking forward, the fourth quarter is off to a solid start. As Tom mentioned, we expect our 2019 EBITDA to be at the high end or above the original guidance.

Moving on to growth, we have identified and executed on attractive return projects within both the midstream and fuel distribution sectors. In the third quarter, we completed our first deliveries on the J.C. Nolan pipeline and we're in the process of evaluating and finalizing more midstream projects in the future.

Within fuel distribution, we continue to grow the Sunoco brand. We have ramped up our organic efforts and we expect this to be a ratable part of our business going forward. We have balanced our increase in organic growth this year with fewer acquisitions. But let me be clear, we're still actively looking for acquisitions. When the right opportunity comes at the right price. We'll act on it .

Let me close by stating our results year-to-date have been very strong, and we will deliver on our 2019 targets. We expect next year to be just as strong and we look forward to sharing our insights and our 2020 guidance this December.

Operator, that concludes our prepared remarks, you may open the line for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. At this time, we'll be conducting a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Our first question is from the line of Sharon Lui with Wells Fargo. Please proceed with your question.

Sharon Lui -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Hi, good morning. Just wondering if you could provide some color on what you're seeing in the M&A market today. And whether you can comment on the recent Empire petroleum deal whether that package of assets or of interest?

Joseph Kim -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. This is Joe. Good morning. As far as the Empire deal and or any other deals that are out there. We don't comment on those. Obviously, we have a very capable M&A team that has opportunities to look at most deals that come across our table. But as a rule, we don't comment on deals that are public.

As far as there's other question about what we're seeing in the M&A environment, for us, I think that in the past, I mentioned we have a really good pipeline of acquisition opportunities in the fuel distribution sector and we still have that. This year we've chosen to focus on our organic growth, and if you kind of look back to 2018, after we came out of the 7-11 transaction, we relied heavily on our fuel distribution acquisitions to grow, because as I said in the past we are building that internal capability to do organic projects.

Fast forward to this year and we've developed our capabilities. So we focused more on organic growth this year. But what we're seeing in the fuel distribution sector as far as opportunities. We think that's pretty much the same.

And on the midstream side we did the AMID acquisition less than a year ago and that acquisition is doing great and where those opportunities. We're still looking at and we think some of those will start coming up in the future.

Sharon Lui -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay, great. And I guess given your focus on organic spending, do you anticipate for next year that the level of growth capex could be similar to this year?

Joseph Kim -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So again, I think like whenever you look at growth capex, I don't think you should look at in a vacuum, I think you have to kind of look at in totality. So I'll work backwards and then work forward. So in 2018. We spent roughly about $70 million in growth capital and we did about $300 million worth of roll up

acquisition. In 2019 as Tom mentioned in the prepared remarks, we're anticipating roughly about $160 million and year-to-date we haven't done any roll-up acquisitions. So for us, especially even on the fuel distribution side and the midstream side, it's really a buy build decision for us.

We can either do an acquisition in fuel distribution or by terminals, like we did with a AMID or we can go out and build like we did with J.C. Nolan or grow our organic growth. So next year, I think we'll be more like 2019 versus 2018 and December will provide guidance for that on a very specific basis.

Sharon Lui -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay, great. Thank you.

Thomas R. Miller -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Thank you. At this time, I will turn the floor back to Scott Grischow for closing remarks.

Scott Grischow -- Vice President-Investor Relations and Treasury

Well, thanks everyone for joining us on the call this morning, please feel free to reach out to us with any follow-up questions. And we'll talk to everyone soon. Have a great day.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 12 minutes

Call participants:

Scott Grischow -- Vice President-Investor Relations and Treasury

Thomas R. Miller -- Chief Financial Officer

Joseph Kim -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Sharon Lui -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

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