The market went into a tailspin late last year, which took most stocks down with it. Energy-related stocks were among those hardest hit as crude prices crashed 40%. This year, however, has been a different story, as markets have bounced back big-time, with the S&P 500 gaining more than 11% in just two months.
Many energy stocks, meanwhile, have vastly outperformed the market thanks to a big bounce back in crude prices from the bottom at the end of last year. One notable laggard, however, has been Magellan Midstream Partners ( MMP -1.54% ), which is only up about 6% this year after plunging roughly 20% in 2018. Because of that, this MLP looks like a compelling option for income investors to consider buying this month.
A rock-solid foundation
While Magellan Midstream's unit price tumbled last year, the company delivered decent financial results. The MLP generated roughly $1.11 billion of distributable cash flow, which was about 9% higher than 2017's level. That provided the company with enough cash to cover its 6.6%-yielding distribution -- which it increased 8% -- by a comfortable 1.26 times, leaving it with some excess cash to help finance expansion projects. Cash flow would have been even higher, but the company sold a stake in its BridgeTex Pipeline in September.
The sale of BridgeTex helped further shore up what is already one of the top balance sheets among MLPs. Magellan's leverage ratio was less than three times debt to EBITDA at the end of September, which was well under its four times target. Because of its low debt level and significant retained cash, the company has the financial flexibility to continue investing in expansion projects that should grow cash flow.
Check out the latest earnings call transcript for Magellan Midstream Partners.
More growth coming down the pipeline
Magellan spent about $800 million on expansion projects last year, which will provide some incremental cash flow in 2019. The company currently expects that it will produce roughly $1.14 billion in distributable cash flow, which would be about 3% higher than last year's level. That leads the company to believe it can increase its payout another 5% this year while maintaining a conservative 1.2 times coverage ratio.
The company's growth rate, however, should accelerate in 2020 because Magellan expects to invest another $1.3 billion into capital projects this year that should start up in the next 18 months. One of the largest is a joint venture with several energy companies to construct the Permian Gulf Coast Pipeline, which is a major oil pipeline that should start up by the middle of 2020. In addition to that, the company is working with refining giant Valero Energy on a new global marine terminal. Magellan is investing $410 million on the two-phase project to build a marine terminal in Texas that will connect Valero's refineries to global markets that they should finish by early next year. Magellan is also investing $500 million into a project that will expand its refined products system in western Texas, which should come online in the middle of 2020. The incremental cash flow from these expansions has Magellan on track to increase its payout by another 5% to 8% next year.
Meanwhile, the company continues to pursue additional projects to drive future growth. It currently has more than $500 million of expansions under development, including increasing the capacity of its marine terminal joint venture with Valero Energy as well as constructing additional oil pipelines and a new oil export terminal. As long as the company continues securing new high-return projects, it should have no problem delivering a steady stream of distribution increases, which it has done 67 times since 2001.
A solid set of offerings
Because Magellan Midstream Partners hasn't bounced back as sharply as its peers this year, it trades at an attractive valuation and yield since its distribution and cash flow have increased over the past year while the unit price has lost altitude. Meanwhile, the company anticipates more growth over the next two years as it completes its current slate of expansion projects even as it maintains solid financial metrics. That combination of yield, growth, value, and financial strength makes it a top option for yield-seekers to consider buying this month.