The United States is producing an enormous amount of natural gas these days. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country's gas output is on track to surge 10% this year to an average of 91.6 billion cubic feet per day. That's above the country's demand, which is causing gas to pile up in storage, pushing down its price. That's forcing gas-focused drillers in places like the Marcellus shale to slow their growth plans until more LNG export facilities come on line.
The market's current challenges are weighing on the valuations of gas-focused midstream companies that operate in the Marcellus shale region. Because of that, they've become absurdly cheap value stocks that pay dividends with eye-popping yields.
A ridiculously cheap high-yield stock
Units of CNX Midstream Partners (CNXM) have tumbled more than 25% over the past year. As a result, the master limited partnership now yields 11.1%. While a payout in the double digits is usually a sign of trouble, that doesn't appear to be the case with CNX Midstream Partners. That's because the company is on track to generate between $150 million and $170 million in cash flow this year, which is enough to cover that payout by 1.2 to 1.4 times. That's a comfortable range for an MLP.
Instead, the reason CNX Midstream's yield is so high is that it's trading at an absurdly cheap valuation. Given its slumping unit price over the past year, the MLP's enterprise value (EV) has fallen to about $1.5 billion. With the company on pace to produce $210 million of adjusted EBITDA at the midpoint of its guidance range, it only sells for about seven times its EV to EBITDA. That's ridiculously cheap, considering that many larger MLPs sell for more than 11 times EBITDA. Meanwhile, CNX Midstream is even less expensive when considering its 2020 outlook, where it expects to produce between $250 million and $270 million of adjusted EBITDA. Because of that growth, the MLP believes that it can increase its distribution by a 15% annual rate through at least 2023.
Just a temporary setback
EQT Midstream (EQM) has lost about 27% of its value over the past year. That's due in part to the company's issues with building the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The MLP and its partners have encountered a series of delays and cost overages. The project's cost has consequently risen from $4.6 billion earlier this year to a new range of $5.3 billion-$5.5 billion. In the meantime, the in-service date has been pushed back from the end of this year to the end of 2020.
Because of that delay, EQT Midstream recently pressed pause on its dividend growth plan. It intends to maintain its current payout rate -- which implies a 14.2% yield at the company's current unit price -- until it completes the MVP project. Again, the reason that payout is so high is due to the decline in EQT Midstream's valuation. At the moment, its enterprise value is $12.1 billion. It's also on track to produce $1.34 billion of adjusted EBITDA, implying a nine times EV/EBITDA multiple. It's even cheaper when factoring in its growth prospects as MVP and other projects will fuel a 30% EBITDA increase when they come on line by the end of next year.
So jaw-droppingly cheap that it's taking action
Antero Midstream (AM 0.54%) has sold off an astounding 58% this year. Because of that, it trades at a ridiculously low valuation. With its enterprise value down to $6.4 billion and a business that's on track to produce $895 million of adjusted EBITDA, it trades at just seven times its EV/EBITDA.
Because of the decline in its valuation, Antero Midstream's dividend yield has surged to a jaw-dropping 16.9%. The company had planned to keep growing that payout around the same rate as its cash flow. However, given how cheap the stock is these days, the company now plans to use some of that incremental cash to repurchase shares. It recently authorized a $300 million buyback plan, which is enough money to retire about 8% of its outstanding shares, given their current low price.
These super-low valuations are sending yields skyward
Investors have sold off anything gas-related due to lower prices, including midstream companies. Those entities, though, make money on volume, not price. With gas production still rising, their cash flow is growing. That's giving them the funds to continue to pay dividends. And with their valuations plummeting, those yields are soaring. Because of that, value investors could potentially score some massive total returns once the market realizes it made a mistake by tossing these companies into the bargain bin.