The U.S. midstream industry is out of favor today despite increasing demand for the infrastructure needed to move and process the growing amounts of oil and natural gas being created by the fracking boom. You can find big yields and big growth opportunities throughout the midstream sector. That said, these three Motley Fool contributors think you might want to focus on MPLX LP (NYSE:MPLX), Enterprise Products Partners LP (NYSE:EPD), and Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE:KMI) right now, all of which are presenting timely opportunities for long-term investors. Here's a quick primer on each.
All fueled up and ready to grow
Matt DiLallo (MPLX LP): This year has been transformational for midstream master limited partnership MPLX. In February, the company completed two game-changing strategic transactions with its parent Marathon Petroleum. In the first deal, the company paid $8.1 billion for the rest of Marathon's midstream assets, which will add $1 billion in annual EBITDA going forward. On top of that, the two companies closed a $10.1 billion transaction that streamlined their ownership structure by eliminating the costly incentive distribution rights that MPLX paid to its parent.
In addition to those needle-moving transactions, MPLX has announced a string of other deals that will boost earnings in both the short and long term. The company closed two smaller third-party acquisitions this year, buying a stake in a newly built gas pipeline and a storage terminal, which has significant expansion potential. The company also secured several new expansion projects, including starting the next phase of its evolution by agreeing to participate in the development of new long-haul oil and gas pipelines. One of those projects has already moved forward while another is close to getting the green light. Those projects position MPLX to deliver significant growth as they come on line over the next few years.
Finally, Marathon recently acquired a rival refiner, which not only owns some midstream assets but also a stake in another MLP. While the company hasn't said what it would do with these assets, it could eventually sell them to MPLX, potentially adding fuel for future growth.
These moves position MPLX to potentially increase its 7.1%-yielding distribution at a high rate for the next several years. That upside is why I think MPLX is a top stock to consider buying this October.
Reuben Gregg Brewer (Enterprise Products Partners LP): A bellwether in the midstream industry, Enterprise Products Partners garners a lot of attention. Which isn't the best news today because the MLP's distribution growth has been cut in half, falling to 3% from the historical trend of roughly 6%. On the surface, that looks like bad news -- but it isn't.
Enterprise has decided to slow near-term distribution growth so it can generate more internal cash to support future capital spending. That will reduce the partnership's need to issue dilutive new units and debt. Which, in turn, should mean lower costs and higher returns for investors over the long term. But the distribution slowdown has been a headwind to the units, leaving the industry-leading partnership with a robust 6% yield.
Once this transition is over, distribution growth should pick up again. But how much progress is being made? An easy answer can be seen in the partnership's distribution coverage, which has risen from 1.2 times to a robust 1.5 times on distributable cash-flow growth of roughly 27% year over year through the first six months of 2018. Enterprise has clearly freed up a notable amount of cash that it can spend on future growth projects. And in a very short time.
Enterprise is a well-run partnership that's becoming an even more desirable investment. You can still buy it with a huge 6% yield if you are willing to think long term. The coverage ratio, however, suggests the business changes that management is working on are happening relatively quickly. Acting sooner rather than later could be a very good call, since investors are likely to reward Enterprise with a higher price once distribution growth picks up again.
Finally set to break out
John Bromels (Kinder Morgan Inc.): Gas pipeline operator Kinder Morgan's share price stayed remarkably steady throughout the summer, hovering around $18. That's not far from where it started 2018. But Kinder Morgan shares look poised to rise, which makes it an excellent energy company to consider buying in October.
With 84,000 miles (and counting) of product pipelines and 152 terminals across the continent, Kinder Morgan is one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America. And that's where the action is these days, thanks to fracking and other advances that are turning it into an energy-producing powerhouse.
Take, for example, the red-hot Permian Basin of Texas, where most of the capacity in Kinder Morgan's recently announced 430-mile Permian Highway pipeline is already spoken for. Or the Gulf Coast Express pipeline, which won't be operational until 2019, but is also already fully subscribed. Most of Kinder's pipelines follow a "tollbooth" model -- companies pay based on the amount of products they ship through the lines. So, operating at full capacity brings more cash into the business and -- thanks to Kinder's recent shareholder-friendly moves like a 60% dividend hike and share buybacks -- into investors' pockets.
This month looks like a great time to invest in Kinder Morgan.