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This Is What's Sinking USA Compression Partners' Stock Today

By Tyler Crowe - Sep 10, 2015 at 3:37PM

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Issuing new equity can signal growth, unless you decide to use that issuance to pay down debt.

What: Shares of USA Compression Partners (NYSE: USAC) are down more than 10% at the time of this writing following the company's decision to do a secondary offer of shares.

So what: Following the market close yesterday, USA Compression Partners announced that it would be issuing 4 million common units, which were issued this morning with an issue price of $19.33 a unit. According to the company's release, it will use the proceeds of the issuance in order to pay down some debt. 

When it comes to master limited partnerships like USA Compression, share or unit issuances are actually common. Since master limited partnerships traditionally pass a large portion of their excess cash flow to investors rather than store some cash for growth, debt and equity issuances are needed to grow the business. The hope in doing so is that the capital you are investing from those equity issuances will provide enough cash flow to cover the distribution payments to these new units as well as provide a little extra to raise everyone's per-unit distribution.

This most recent issuance from USA Compression is not that kind of issuance. It may be saving some money on interest payments, but it isn't being used to grow the business. Hence the large sell-off today. On the flip side, though, the company's debt levels suggest that this was a necessary -- if not welcomed -- move by management.

Now what: While issuing new units isn't a great sign for a company, this isn't a "make or break" kind of move. USA Compression still has a large portfolio of compression equipment and services that has strong contract rates and the ability to generate cash from its equipment. One lingering question for the company is whether natural gas production in its regions of interest will either start to flat line or possibly decline. For now, though, today's move isn't really enough of a move to really change the long-term investing thesis.

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USA Compression Partners, LP Stock Quote
USA Compression Partners, LP
$17.25 (3.17%) $0.53

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