A positive outlook for oil and gas demand in 2021 is leading to a recent rise in commodity prices. On the supply side, Saudi Arabia's voluntary oil production cut, which extends through March, is supporting oil prices. Similarly, higher expected LNG exports, combined with lower expected gas production, are driving U.S. natural gas prices higher. Here are three energy stocks, paying handsome dividends, that should benefit from the positive demand-supply dynamics for oil and gas.
ONEOK (OKE 0.01%) primarily provides natural gas and NGL (natural gas liquids) gathering, processing, transportation, and storage services, mainly for a fee. For 2020, fee-based earnings accounted for more than 90% of ONEOK's earnings. Some of ONEOK's contracts are percent-of-proceeds, which exposes it to fluctuations in commodity prices. Yet, the company's fee-based contracts provide a layer of stability to its earnings.
For that reason, ONEOK was able to grow its adjusted EBITDA by 6% year over year in 2020, despite reduced demand due to the pandemic. The company's gas gathering and processing volumes and earnings got severely hit in the second quarter due to reduced production. However, volumes recovered toward the end of the year. At the same time, higher NGL volumes boosted its earnings.
What's more, ONEOK expects its 2021 adjusted EBITDA to rise 12%, assuming WTI crude oil -- the domestic benchmark price -- ranges between $45 to $50 per barrel. Increasing producer activity and recently completed projects are expected to drive this growth.
ONEOK is also working on strengthening its balance sheet. It's net debt to EBITDA ratio was 4.6 times at the end of 2020, compared to 4.8 at the end of 2019. Moreover, it plans to use any additional cash that it generates to pay down debt. In the long run, the company aims for a ratio below 4. Similarly, ONEOK plans to spend 70% less on capital projects in 2021 than it did in 2020.
ONEOK's distributable cash flow, or DCF (broadly EBITDA less interest, tax, and maintenance capital expenditures), was nearly 1.2 times its dividend for 2020. DCF is the cash available for dividend payments and a higher DCF than dividend shows that a company can easily pay its dividend, even if the cash flow temporarily falls a bit. All in all, ONEOK's attractive 8.2% yield looks sustainable too.
There is a lot that dividend investors will like about the Canadian energy company Enbridge (ENB 1.10%). The company recently increased its dividend by 3%, which represents its 26th consecutive year of dividend growth. Moreover, Enbridge aims to grow its per share distributable cash flow by an average 5% to 7% annually in the long term. That would allow it to continue its dividend growth streak in the future, too.
A couple of factors are behind the company's resilient performance. Its gas transmission and distribution operations are mostly regulated and generate largely stable earnings. Further, its liquids pipelines are usually fully utilized, as there is limited pipeline capacity available to transport oil from Canada's oil sands. Strategically located and diversified assets provide relative stability to Enbridge's earnings.
Enbridge placed nearly CA$1.5 billion of growth projects in service in 2020. It expects to place around CA$10 billion of projects into service in 2021, which supports its growth outlook. The stock is currently trading at an attractive yield of nearly 7%.
Pipeline operator Williams Companies (WMB 1.28%) handles nearly 30% of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. The company grew its annual adjusted EBITDA by 2% in 2020. Higher gas gathering volumes driven by certain acquired assets contributed to the growth. Williams expects its EBITDA to grow nearly 2% in 2021 as well, driven by contributions from growth projects.
Williams Companies' distributable cash flow for 2020 was 1.7 times its dividend payments for the year. That provides the company a nice cushion for its dividend, even if earnings fall a bit. Williams recently raised its first-quarter dividend by 2.5%.
The company expects to spend a little above $1 billion on growth projects in 2021, in line with its 2020 spending. Natural gas is expected to continue being a key component of the future energy mix. That bodes well for Williams Companies' long-term growth. In short, the stock's nearly 7% yield looks to be on strong footing.