If you like to own income-paying investments, then you're probably familiar with the energy industry's master limited partnerships. While most MLPs are known for owning midstream assets, a handful are dedicated to owning mature oil and gas production assets. If owning a piece of production appeals to you, then you just might want to check out BreitBurn Energy Partners (NASDAQ:BBEP). Here are five reasons I think you'll love what you find.
1. Increasing income
The real draw of BreitBurn Energy Partners is its distributions. The oil and gas limited partnership just increased its cash distribution to $0.47 per unit, which was slightly ahead of the $0.465-per-unit rate it handed out last quarter. That's an almost unheard-of yield of 9.5% that's likely to keep going higher by an average of 5% each year.
2. Stable asset base
That distribution is produced by the company's evenly split production of oil and natural gas. This production comes from stable long-life assets, which have an estimated 18-year reserve life. That means the company has more than enough oil and gas in the ground that it can produce and sell to keep its payout flowing for a long time.
3. Upside from organic growth
While acquisitions are typically the name of the game for exploration and production MLPs, BreitBurn does have the ability to grow its production organically. Over the course of last year, the company grew its planned capital program from its originally announced $68 million up to $152 million by the end of the year to capitalize on organic growth opportunities within its portfolio. This upside from organic growth has the company targeting a 20% year-over-year growth for its production. That's great for investors, because organic growth typically produces higher returns than acquired growth, but it's usually harder to come by.
4. Hedging practices
To sustain its generous distributions, BreitBurn hedges a high percentage of its production. Its goal is to hedge 80% of current-year production, and then 75%, 60%, and 50% in subsequent years. That's well below industry peer LINN Energy (NASDAQ:LINE), which has 100% of its natural gas production hedged through 2017 and 100% of its oil hedged through 2016.
BreitBurn is, however, well ahead of traditional exploration and production companies. For example, Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) had no natural gas hedges for 2013 as of its last report while hedging just 69% of its oil production for 2013. It's no wonder Chesapeake investors have been on such a roller coaster as commodity prices fluctuate, while BreitBurn and LINN investors enjoy stable payouts. Hedging is a key differentiator for E&P MLPs, as it locks in the cash flow that investors expect to see coming back in distributions.
5. Solid balance sheet
Because BreitBurn returns most of its income to investors, it needs to take on both debt and equity to fund its growth. It uses a blend of 60% equity and 40% debt to fund acquired assets as it seeks to maintain low leverage ratios. Right now, its total debt-to-enterprise value is just 35%. The company had just $800 million of debt even after executing on $745 million of acquisitions in the past year and a half. The company has strong liquidity and flexibility to pursue additional accretive transactions that come its way. Balance-sheet flexibility is a must in any industry, but it's especially crucial to energy companies. Just ask Chesapeake.
My Foolish take
BreitBurn Energy is a solid company that's unlikely to burn investors. It pays a phenomenal distribution that's backed by stable operations, hedged production, and a solid balance sheet. There's a lot to love with BreitBurn, especially for investors who enjoy fat quarterly paychecks.
Fool contributor Matt DiLallo owns shares of Linn Energy. The Motley Fool has options on Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.