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  • Roger S. Conrad

Roger S. Conrad needs no introduction to individual and professional investors, many of whom have profited from his decades of experience uncovering the best dividend-paying stocks for accumulating sustainable wealth.

Roger built his reputation with Utility Forecaster, a publication he founded more than 20 years ago that The Hulbert Financial Digest routinely ranked as one of the best investment newsletters. He’s also a sought-after expert on master limited partnerships (MLP) and former Canadian royalty trusts.

In April 2013, Roger reunited with his long-time friend and colleague, Elliott Gue, becoming co-editor of Energy & Income Advisor, a semimonthly online newsletter that’s dedicated to uncovering the most profitable opportunities in the energy sector.

Although the masthead may have changed, readers can count on Roger to deliver the same high-quality analysis and rational assessment of the best dividend-paying utilities, MLPs and dividend-paying Canadian energy names.

Articles

Lessons from Canada for US Midstream Master Limited Partnerships

Does Canada’s midstream segment provide a model for the evolution of US master limited partnerships? We explore what factors have helped Canadian pipeline stocks outperform despite currency headwinds and lower realizations on oil and gas prices.

MLPs: The Quest for Sustainability

With investor confidence in master limited partnerships (MLP) at low ebb, inflows to the group have slowed significantly, reducing the market’s capacity to absorb equity issuance. Many debt-constrained MLPs with higher yields have responded to this challenge by pursuing private placements of preferred units to finance growth projects or asset drop-downs.

A strong balance sheet and excess distribution coverage enabled Enterprise Products Partners LP (NYSE: EPD) to take a slightly different tack: reducing its rate of quarterly distribution increases to retain more cash flow.

With Enterprise Products Partners not getting credit for its consistent growth, management indicated that reducing the rate of distribution increases would put the MLP closer to being able to self-fund the equity portion of its growth capital in 2019—a major point of differentiation. Management asserted that any excess cash flow eventually could be used to buy back stock, depending on the valuation and how this option stacks up relative to other uses of capital.

This announcement from an industry bellwether raised questions about whether the traditional model of pushing the envelope on distribution growth while relying primarily on equity issuance to finance expansion opportunities still makes sense.

Given the pain of the past several years, a focus on building distribution coverage and improving leverage metrics should help to shore up confidence in the group. And any MLP that can grow its per-unit cash flow without leaning heavily on the equity market will have a distinct advantage as competition for volumes intensifies.

Enterprise Products Partners wasn’t necessarily the first MLP to go down this path—Magellan Midstream Partners LP (NYSE: MMP) hasn’t issued equity since 2010—but this announcement has changed the conversation this earnings season, with many partnerships tapping the breaks on distribution growth to build coverage and reduce the need to issue equity.

Thus far, third-quarter results suggest that most of our MLP Portfolio holdings will be able to make this transition with relative ease, though two names with tighter distribution coverage could face more of a slog.

International Energy Outperforms

We’ve completed our quarterly update to the ratings and comments in our International Coverage Universe. Key takeaways from this exercise include ongoing cost-cutting, deleveraging and consolidation in Canada. Meanwhile, natural-gas prices in Australia have soared, as the upsurge in exports has limited the supply available to the domestic market.

Against this backdrop, the names in our International Portfolio reported solid second-quarter results and affirmed or increased their guidance. All these stocks benefited from the US dollar’s weakness this summer.

The latter tailwind has made it a good year for our International Portfolio, with the conservative sleeve delivering an average total return of 12.6 percent and the aggressive sleeve up 0.5 percent. Over this period, the S&P 500 Energy Index gave up 8.8 percent of its value.

But solid fundamentals also contributed to these returns; all our conservative holdings increased their dividends at least once this year.

Power Plays

Recent improvements in global oil inventories and stronger-than-expected demand growth have bolstered oil prices—especially outside the US—and prompted value-focused investors to return to cyclical segments of the energy sector.

Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration’s downward revisions to its outlook for US oil output and the decline in the oil-directed rig count have provided early indications that drilling and completion activity may obey the speed limits imposed by commodity prices.

Although these trends have lifted upstream-related energy stocks in recent weeks, the break-neck volatility of the past few years and the likelihood of shorter cycles in the energy sector argue for diversification into secular growth stories that depend less on commodity prices and timing your entry and exit points.

This approach has served us well over the years, with our exposure to that own renewable-energy capacity delivering particularly strong returns relative to the S&P 500 Energy Index over our extended holding periods.

To varying degrees, all the stocks that we highlighted in December 2014 that stood to benefit from lower oil prices also outperformed in a challenging tape. (See The Demand Side Beckons.)

We cashed out of Portfolio holdings Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises (Oslo: RCL, NYSE: RCL) for solid gains in November 2015, while anyone who followed our lead on Casey’s General Stores (NSDQ: CASY), Alimentation Couch-Tard (TSX: ATD/B, OTC: AQUNF) and Berry Global (NYSE: BERY) also fared well. (See Trimming Some of Our Hedges.)

With oil prices likely to range between $40 and $60 per barrel over the next few years, our playbook for late 2014 and early 2015 no longer holds the same appeal. At the same time, many of the renewable-energy companies in our Portfolios have rallied above our buy targets.

Fortunately, the ever-shifting energy landscape isn’t bereft of secular growth stories, including the specialized engineering and construction company and precision-power specialist highlighted in this issue.

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  • Live Chat with

    Elliott and Roger on May. 30, 2019

  • Portfolios & Ratings

    • Model Portfolios

      Balanced portfolios of energy stocks for aggressive and conservative investors.

    • Coverage Universe

      Our take on more than 50 energy-related equities, from upstream to downstream and everything in between.

    • MLP Ratings

      Our assessment of every energy-related master limited partnership.

    • International Coverage Universe

      Roger Conrad’s coverage of more than 70 dividend-paying energy names.

    Experts

    • Elliott H. Gue

      Founder and Chief Analyst: Capitalist Times and Energy & Income Advisor

    • Roger S. Conrad

      Founder and Chief Analyst: Capitalist Times and Energy & Income Advisor