Midstream company Williams Companies,'s (NYSE:WMB) second-quarter results showed the benefits of being relatively unexposed to the volatility of commodity prices. It's why the company and its affiliated MLP Williams Partners (NYSE: WPZ) both delivered solid year-over-year growth in profitability despite the fact that oil and gas prices have crumbled over the past year. It's one of the three takeaways investors should walk away with after reviewing that report.
1. Thanks to fees Williams is largely immune from the turmoil around it
Despite the turbulent oil market Williams Companies reported a 32% year-over-year increase in its adjusted EBITDA. While a bulk of this increase is due to the fact that Williams Partners merged with fellow affiliate Access Midstream, it wasn't the only thing that fueled growth. In fact, sans that merger Williams Partners' fee-based revenue actually jumped 17% year-over-year as a result of major projects ramping up. Specifically, the company noted that expansions to Transco and its Gulf of Mexico facilities were among the key projects driving the growth in second-quarter fee-based revenue. Further, the company expects fee-based revenue to continue growing throughout the rest of the year.
The key here is the company's focus on fee-based revenue is paying big dividends during the downturn. These fees are paid to the company no matter the price of oil and gas as Williams operates more of a toll booth model. In other words, Williams doesn't care what its customers are paying for their cars, it makes its money on the tolls it collects.
2. No change to dividend growth guidance
Because of the solid foundation from fee-based revenue, as well as the fact that more fee-based assets are in the pipeline to be built, Williams is reiterating its long-term guidance. That said, the company is lowering adjusted 2015 EBIDA guidance by 6% at the midpoint due to an extended ramp-up at its Geismar project as well as some impact from lower commodity prices. However, it's leaving adjusted EBITDA guidance for 2016-2018 the same. As such, the company still intends to increase its dividend 10% next year to an annualized rate of $2.85 with 10%-15% dividend growth through 2020.
That said, there is somewhat of a catch to the dividend growth and that's the fact that it's predicated on the company successfully completing a merger to acquire all of the outstanding units of Williams Partners that it doesn't already own.
3. There's still a possibility it sells out to the highest bidder
Speaking of that deal, Williams is holding off on a shareholder vote at the moment. That's because the company continues to evaluate strategic alternatives in the wake of rejecting an unsolicited buyout offer from a rival. It's quite possible that the result of that review will see the company put itself on the auction block seeking a higher bid than the one it rejected. That said, the company could still stick to its current plan, which is to bring all of Williams Partners in house. It's a move that will generate the company's expected 10%-15% annual dividend growth rate through the dawn of the new decade.
Thanks to growing fee-based revenue from Williams Partners, both it and Williams Companies delivered solid second-quarter results despite the deep downturn in the oil and gas market. Further, while the downturn will have some impact on results later this year, the long-term impact is muted, which is why the company is reiterating its long-term guidance for cash flow and dividend growth. That being said, it's still quite possible that Williams won't be around for the long-term as the company is currently evaluating its alternatives, which could include an outright sale of the company.