What: Shares of FerrellGas Partners (NYSE:FGP) declined 12% in the month of September from a combination of a weakness across the entire MLP space as well as some headline numbers from its recent results not looking too impressive.
So What: FerrellGas' past quarter was a prime example of why you need to look at more than just the headline numbers in an earnings release. If we were to just look at revenue and net income, we would see declines across the board and a general sign that the market for wholesale and retail propane aren't that robust.
If you look deeper into the numbers, though, you will see that the decline in revenue is more than compensated for by a decline in the cost of goods sold. This is a pretty common occurrence when you sell a commodity. As the price of that commodity declines, revenues and cost of goods sold decline. If looked at from a gross profit perspective, we can see that FerrellGas actually increased its gross profit in what has historically been the weak season for propane sales.
Another thing you need to consider is that the company also took some large administrative charges for a $837 million acquisition in June. If we were to adjust for these one time charges, we would see that the company's results improved year over year.
Now What: For the most part, the reasons that the MLP space has struggled as of late are not as applicable to FerrellGas. As a wholesale and retail distributor of propane at its core, the company benefits from cheap natural gas prices that have affected so many others.
One thing that is of concern, though, is that the company is stretched a little thin with its balance sheet. FerrellGas is a serial acquirer of companies in the retail propane space, and it's balance sheet, with a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 7.9 times, is a little bloated. If it can integrate its most recent acquisition, the increased operational profits should help to bring some of its debt metrics back to more reasonable levels, but it's certainly something worth keeping an eye on going forward.