What happened

Shares of Macquarie Infrastructure Corp (NYSE:MIC) came tumbling down on Thursday, falling 37.4% as of 12:34 p.m. EST. The fuel storage infrastructure specialist reported its fiscal Q4 2017 earnings results last night, and it appears to have missed estimates pretty badly.

According to Yahoo! Finance data, the company reported $0.43 per share in pro forma profit, versus the $0.51 per share that Wall Street had estimated.

Oil tanks in a field

Macquarie builds oil infrastructure. Image source: Getty Images.

So what

That's the pro forma story, anyway. When calculated according to GAAP accounting standards, the numbers looked a bit prettier. Counting one-time, pre-tax items, GAAP profits for the quarter were $4.13, and $5.13 for the year -- roughly three times what Macquarie had earned in 2016.

Reviewing its results, Macquarie especially emphasized its cash production and distribution in 2017, noting that the company's "total distribution" to shareholders was $5.56 per share, "consistent with our guidance for a year over year increase of 10%," and a bigger number than the company actually earned in the year. CEO Christopher Frost called this result "solid."

Now what

Dividends in 2018, however, may be a bit softer. In order to conserve cash internally to use for "repurposing ... assets at International-Matex Tank Terminals and to take advantage of the incentives to invest in growth projects that are a part of recent tax reform," Macquarie advised investors that it will be cutting its 2018 dividend payments by about 28%, to $1 per quarter, or $4 for the year.

Further necessitating the move, Macquarie warned that its free cash flow in 2018 will probably fall by about 8% to 10% relative to 2017 levels.

Whatever the motivation for the cut, investors are not taking the news well.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.