The average stock in the S&P 500 currently yields less than 2%. Because of that, most investors would classify anything over 4% as a high-yield dividend stock. Some companies, however, pay more than double that level. While many of these ultra-high yielders come with sky-high risk profiles, a select few offer big-time payouts backed by rock-solid financials.
Two of these income-producing dynamos are EnLink Midstream (NYSE:ENLC) and MPLX (NYSE:MPLX). Here's why yield seekers will want to take a closer look at these two energy master limited partnerships (MLPs).
Solid and getting stronger
EnLink Midstream currently yields around 8.6%. It's as solid a payout as investors will find in the ultra-high-yield space. For starters, long-term, fee-based contracts lock in about 90% of its cash flow. As a result, it has minimal direct exposure to commodity price volatility. Meanwhile, the company expects to generate enough cash to cover its ultra-high-yielding distribution by 1.3 to 1.4 times this year, well above the 1.2 times minimum comfort level of most midstream companies. On top of that, it has a solid balance sheet, backed by a leverage ratio that should be between 3.9 to 4.2 times this year. That's right around the 4.0 times target of most MLPs.
As good as EnLink Midstream's metrics are right now, they're on track to get even better in the coming years. That's because the company currently expects to invest $1.2 billion-$1.5 billion on high-return growth projects through 2021. As those expansions come on line, they should grow cash flow at a more than 10% annual pace. That will support distribution growth in the 5% to 10% range. Because EnLink Midstream expects cash flow to expand at a faster pace than its payout, its financial metrics should grow even stronger. The MLP sees its distribution coverage averaging between 1.3-1.5 times over the long term while leverage should be in the range of 3.5-4.0 times.
EnLink offers income seekers the best of both worlds: It pays an ultra-high yield now that's on rock-solid ground. In the meantime, it expects to increase that payout at a healthy pace over the next few years even as its financial metrics improve. That combination of income, growth, and strengthening financials makes it a compelling option for low-risk income seekers.
Already high and heading higher
MPLX is yielding around 8.1% at the moment. The company also supports that payout with solid financial metrics. The MLP generates steady cash backed primarily by fee-based contracts. Furthermore, it covered its distribution with cash flow by 1.36 times last year while ending 2018 with a 3.9 times leverage ratio. Both are strong numbers for an MLP.
Like EnLink, those metrics should improve over the next couple of years. That's because the company is in the process of investing $4.2 billion to expand its midstream footprint. Those growth projects should boost the company's cash flow by 11% this year and another 13% in 2020. That will support its plan to increase its distribution by about 6% annually over that time frame. At the same time, with cash flow rising at a faster pace than the payout, MPLX's coverage ratio should improve from its already-healthy level. That will enable it to retain more cash to fund expansion projects, which will help improve its leverage ratio.
High yield isn't always high risk
Most investors see well above-average yields as a sign of more risk. However, that's not the case with these two MLPs since they have strong financial metrics backing their payouts. Consequently, investors can score some ultra-high yields for reasonably low risk.