Full disclosure: I'm a basketball nerd. As both an investor and a basketball fan, the NBA draft is one of my favorite times of the year because it is so similar to investing. Teams are evaluating talent in hopes of finding the right prospects to yield immense benefits to their rosters. As investors, we do the same thing: We scour financial statements and valuations to determine what stock will yield us high rates of return over the long term.
Today, let's put on our general-manager caps and evaluate the prospects of two high-yield stocks: Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD) and Enviva Partners (NYSE:EVA). Here's what you are getting if you draft these stocks for your portfolio.
The "you know what you're getting" prospect
As a company approaching its 50th anniversary, and 20th anniversary as a publicly listed stock, Enterprise Products Partners is like a college senior in the draft. We have had several years to evaluate it, we know what it can and can't do, and we know how it will contribute, in this case, to our portfolio. If you are looking for a slow and steady growth investment with a high yield, then Enterprise Products is the company for you.
There are the nuts-and-bolts qualities that make Enterprise a premier high-yield investment: It has contract-protected revenue streams with little commodity-price risk, and a financial plan that looks to maintain plenty of financial flexibility through low debt levels and high rates of retained cash flow. But digging a little deeper, there's an additional quality that makes Enterprise a compelling investment: its network connectivity.
In many cases, master limited partnerships focus on a subset of the oil and gas transportation and logistics business, such as gathering and processing, long-haul pipelines, or storage. In many cases, these are disjointed assets in multiple places with little overlap or connectivity.
Contrast that with Enterprise's business, which emphasizes an integrated network and optionality. The company's largest segment -- natural gas liquids (NGLs) -- provides gathering and early-stage processing, long-haul transportation, petrochemical manufacturing, storage, and export options. These make Enterprise's service more valuable to customers, because it can choose the end market with the highest value at any given time. Enterprise also uses this network to its advantage by buying and trading smaller amounts of NGLs to deliver to the highest-value end market.
We even saw this dynamic in action back in 2015, when the company sold its long-haul offshore pipelines, which had little to no overlap with the rest of its assets. It then used the proceeds from that sale to buy several natural-gas-gathering assets -- which came with a 15-year take-or-pay contract -- in the Eagle Ford shale, which connects to Enterprise's massive processing and petrochemical manufacturing facilities in the Gulf Coast region.
It's things like this that make Enterprise probably the best high-yield investment in the oil and gas industry. With shares carrying a distribution yield of 6.1%, it's a stock in which I have upped my personal investment, and I will likely do so in the future as well.
Young, but shows lots of promise
If there were a checklist of certain qualities you want in high-yield stocks, one quality would be a long and storied history of sustained payout growth. Enviva Partners earns no checkmark for this trait -- its initial public offering wasn't till 2015. Like raw athletic prospects who declare for the draft after their freshman year, though, this wood-pellet manufacturer has several of the qualities you would want to see in a high-yield dividend stock.
Let's go through those nuts-and-bolts qualities first. Does it have a protected revenue stream with little commodity-price risk? Check. Enviva's current production capacity is fully subscribed under take-or-pay contracts. The average contract length today stands at 9.8 years, and its contracted rates in 2021 are well above current capacity. So there is already built-in demand for capacity expansion.
Is there a reasonable growth runway over the next decade or so? Check. Many countries are replacing coal power with biomass power facilities that use wood pellets -- especially in countries where alternative energy options like solar are much less viable. In Northern Europe, analysts estimate that wood-pellet demand will grow 13% annually through 2021. Also, Japan's shift away from nuclear power means wood-pellet demand there could grow 32% annually over that same time frame.
Is management balancing the needs for growth, financial discipline, and distributions? Check, so far. With the company going public within the past three years, we can't say with too much conviction that management won't steer this ship into an iceberg. So far, though, the company has managed to maintain a debt-to-EBITDA ratio of less than 4.5 -- management is targeting a ratio of less than 3.0, but it recently completed an acquisition that has raised that ratio. At the same time, it has grown its payout at a decent clip while retaining a decent amount of cash to reinvest in the business.
These are all the qualities you want in a high-yield investment structured as a master limited partnership. It may not have the track record of Enterprise Products Partners, but with a yield of 8%, it is tempting enough at least to put on your radar.