Shares of Cheniere Energy (NYSEMKT:LNG) have risen exponentially (2,650%) over the past four years and nearly 50% year to date alone as the allure of using liquefied natural gas (LNG) has been amplified around the world while the potential for the U.S. to export natural gas has become more of a mainstream conversation. The problem is that lawmakers have not formally blessed the idea of sending LNG abroad as pollution and concerns about lifting prices here at home fuel the debate.
At present, the U.S. is considering fast-tracking LNG buildouts as a move to hit Russia in the wallet, though currently we only send limited amounts of gas to Canada and Mexico. While there could be more upside in shares of Cheniere Energy, the bet that legislators will give gas exports the green light does seem already baked into the Texas-based energy company's stock.
I do still believe in the longevity of Cheniere and the ability for the company to create value for shareholders, as evidenced by the spinning off of Cheniere Energy Partners LP Holdings (NYSEMKT:CQH) This is supported by the 20-year purchase agreements from Pertamina announced in December and more recently the agreements with Endesa, which is part of the Enel Group. However, I believe that the country going from a gas importer to a staunch exporter needs to be more closely evaluated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). I also feel the general stock market is due for a correction, and shares of Cheniere Energy will not be immune to any market sell-off.
More importantly, Europe needs to fix its own energy problem and not look to swap dependence on Russian gas with a new, perhaps stronger dependence on U.S. energy supplies. This means that shares of Cheniere Energy may doubly be due for a pullback, so investors considering going long should really consider the move before jumping on the export bandwagon. With that being said, I wouldn't be surprised to see management look to take advantage of the recent uptrend in its shares and announce a 2:1 stock split to attract new investors.
My enthusiasm for shares of Cheniere Energy at present valuation has certainly waned. Therefore I'm more inclined to believe the real alpha for those interested in global LNG may actually come from the engineering technology to build new LNG terminals and make them more efficient.