The master limited partnership (MLP) sector saw a series of acquisitions take place in December, from Blackstone reaching an agreement with Tallgrass Energy to Energy Transfer closing on the SemGroup acquisition. The events marked a strong month for midstream equities which outperformed the broader market in December.
MLP market overview
Midstream MLPs, as measured by the Alerian MLP Index (AMZ), ended December up 8.5% on a price basis and total return basis. The AMZ’s results outperformed the S&P 500 Index’s 3.0% total return for the month. The best performing midstream subsector for December was the Gathering and Processing group, while the Propane subsector underperformed, on average.
For the year, the AMZ was down 2.0% on a price basis, resulting in a 6.3% total return gain once distributions are considered. This compares to the S&P 500 Index’s 28.9% and 31.5% price and total returns, respectively. The Compression group produced the best average total return for 2019, while the Gathering and Processing subsector was the weakest.
MLP yield spreads, as measured by the AMZ yield relative to the 10-Year U.S. Treasury Bond, narrowed by 101 basis points (bps) over the month, exiting the period at 726 basis points (bps). This compares to the trailing five-year average spread of 556 bps and the average spread since 2000 of approximately 383 bps. The AMZ indicated distribution yield at month-end was 9.2%.
Midstream MLPs and affiliates raised no new marketed equity (common or preferred, excluding at-the-market programs) and $500 million of marketed debt during the month. MLPs and affiliates announced no asset acquisitions over the month.
Spot West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil exited the month at $61.06 per barrel, up 10.7% over the period and 34.5% higher year-over-year. Spot natural gas prices ended December at $2.09 per million British thermal units (MMbtu), down 15.0% over the month and 34.4% lower than December 2018. Natural gas liquids (NGL) pricing at Mont Belvieu exited the month at $20.76 per barrel, 13.0% lower than the end of November and 13.8% lower than the year-ago period.
Private equity keeps buying midstream. Blackstone (NYSE: BX) reached a formal agreement with Tallgrass Energy (NYSE: TGE) to acquire the remaining shares of TGE that it did not already own, which takes the company private at $22.45/unit or a 15% premium to the initial offer and a 22.75% premium to the closing price the day before the announcement. Additionally, private equity firms KKR and AIMCo acquired 65% of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project from TC Energy (NYSE: TRP) in exchange for reimbursement of a portion of project costs already incurred plus additional payments through the remainder of the project’s construction and operation.
Antero buys shares from Antero. Antero Midstream (NYSE: AM) announced an arrangement with its producer affiliate, Antero Resources (NYSE: AR), in which AM will repurchase and retire$100 million worth of AM shares held by AR. The arrangement is expected to reduce AM’s dividend burden in 2020 by close to $25 million. Additionally, AM and AR agreed on an incentive program whereby AM will provide AR rebates of certain midstream fees provided specified volume growth targets are achieved through 2023. And finally, AM announced a reduced 2020 capital expenditure budget of $300 million from $325 million thanks to a more efficient drilling plan at AR.
Energy Transfer closes SemGroup acquisition. Energy Transfer (NYSE: ET) closed the previously announced acquisition of SemGroup (NYSE: SEMG) for total consideration, including the assumption of approximately $5 billion of debt. The acquisition is expected to significantly strengthen ET’s crude oil transportation, terminalling, and export capabilities with the addition of SemGroup owned Houston Fuel Oil Terminal (HFOTCO), a crude oil terminal on the Houston Ship Channel with 18.2 million barrels of crude oil storage capacity, five deep-water ship docks, and seven barge docks. HFOTCO is supported by stable take-or-pay cash flows from diverse, primarily investment grade customers. To enhance this optionality, ET also announced plans to construct a new crude oil pipeline, the Ted Collins Pipeline, that will connect the HFOTCO to Energy Transfer’s Nederland Terminal. This acquisition also expands ET’s crude oil and NGL infrastructure by adding crude oil gathering assets in the DJ Basin in Colorado and the Anadarko Basin in Oklahoma and Kansas, as well as crude oil and natural gas liquids pipelines connecting the DJ Basin and Anadarko Basin with crude oil terminals in Cushing, Oklahoma.
Chart of the month
Over the last year, midstream management insiders invested approximately $283 million to acquire additional equity stakes in their companies. As midstream public market prices continued to decline during the fourth quarter of 2019, insiders purchased approximately $133 million of company stock, or 47% of the total monies invested over the year. Insider buying is often seen as a positive sign of a company’s business and financial prospects because management insiders hold the most intimate knowledge of the day-to-day operations.
Figure 1: Midstream insider buying (in $millions)
|Name||Ticker||1 year||3 month|
|Enterprise Products Partners||EPD||52.3||51.9|
|Energy Transfer LP||ET||46.7||46.6|
|Equitrans Midstream Corp.||ETRN||9.2||0.1|
|Western Midstream Partners LP||WES||3.5||1.5|
|Plains GP Holdings LP||PAGP||2.4||2.4|
|Targa Resources Corp.||TRGP||2.0||0.0|
|Williams Companies Inc.||WMB||1.5||0.0|
|EnLink Midstream LLC||ENLC||1.5||0.0|
|Phillips 66 Partners LP||PSXP||0.6||0.0|
|Altus Midstream Company||ALTM||0.6||0.1|
|Cheniere Energy Inc.||LNG||0.5||0.5|
|Magellan Midstream Partners LP||MMP||0.3||0.0|
|DCP Midstream LP||DCP||0.1||0.0|
|Blueknight Energy Partners LP||BKEP||0.1||0.1|
|Shell Midstream Partners LP||SHLX||0.1||0.0|
Source: Bloomberg, company filings.
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All data sourced from Bloomberg L.P. as of 12/31/2019 unless otherwise indicated
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A yield spread is the difference in yields between debt instruments of varying maturities, credit ratings, and risk, calculated by deducting the yield of one instrument from another
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The S&P 500 Index is a stock market index that measures the stock performance of 500 large companies listed on stock exchanges in the United States.
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