The stock market has been on a record-shattering run this year, setting new all-time highs on what seems like a daily basis. That has pushed valuations up to the point where value-conscious investors don't have very many options. That said, there are still some cheap stocks out there, especially in the energy sector.
In fact, several pipeline stocks are ridiculously cheap in the aftermath of the oil market downturn. Three that stand out are Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE: ETP), Plains All American Pipeline (NYSE:PAA), and Crestwood Equity Partners (NYSE:CEQP). Because of their rock-bottom prices, investors can earn exceptionally high dividend yields while they wait for the market to realize that these companies are making huge strides to improve their financial situations and growth prospects.
An ultra-high yield option
Energy Transfer Partners currently yields a jaw-dropping 11.8%. Furthermore, the company covered that payout by 1.18 times last quarter, though it did so with a little help from its parent Energy Transfer Equity (NYSE:ET). Back out that support and it would have come up a bit short. That shortfall aside, Energy Transfer Partners' cash flow finally turned a corner last quarter. As a result, the company currently sells for less than 10 times distributable cash flow, which is ridiculously cheap for a pipeline company since many rivals trade at a mid-teens multiple.
It's also worth pointing out that Energy Transfer Partners expects to significantly increase cash flow over the next two years as it puts the finishing touches on a major expansion phase. As a result, the company estimates that it can increase its already generous payout by a low double-digit annual rate in the near term while maintaining at least 1.1 times coverage even after factoring in less support from Energy Transfer Equity. While the company is riskier than many peers due to that relationship and a weaker balance sheet, its low valuation helps offset some of those concerns.
An ultra-safe high yield
Crestwood Equity Partners also offers an eye-catching yield, which is currently 9.6%. What's impressive about that payout is that Crestwood expects to generate enough cash flow to cover the $2.40-per-unit annual distribution by 1.3 times at the midpoint of its guidance. And given its current $25 unit price, the forecast implies that Crestwood Equity Partners sells for an insanely cheap eight times cash flow.
Crestwood's payout is about to get even better because the company is gearing up to resume distribution growth in the second half of next year. Driving that view is the fact that Crestwood has several high-return growth projects under development, which it estimates can generate an incremental $75 million of annual cash flow by 2020. That's a significant leap forward for a company on pace to produce $210 million to $230 million in cash flow this year and suggests that investors are paying an absurdly low price for a company with ample growth on the horizon.
Taking action to get better quickly
Plains All American Pipeline used to trade at a double-digit yield, but the company recently chose to slash its payout and use that cash to pay down debt. Consequently, its current yield is down to 5.5%. However, given that it expects to cover the payout with cash flow by about two times, it implies that the company sells for less than 10 times cash flow. That makes it a potential gold mine for value investors given how cheap it is versus peers.
Meanwhile, Plains expects its earnings to jump 19% at the midpoint next year -- reversing a multiyear decline -- once its current slate of expansion projects enter service. That visible growth along with the retained cash flow from the distribution cut puts Plains on pace to hit its leverage ratio target within six quarters. That means investors who buy today will soon own a much stronger company that, thanks to its low valuation, has the potential to deliver exceptional returns over the next few years if its plan works as well as anticipated.
Get paid well to wait
Because this trio sells for such ridiculously low prices, investors can lock in exceptionally high current yields. Those payouts alone provide the foundation for robust returns over the next few years, especially if these companies deliver on their promised growth plans. Add to that the upside potential should the valuations revert closer to the peer group average and investors could potentially earn market-smashing returns over the coming years, especially if it were to take a breather.