Earlier this year, Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB) announced a 13.33% dividend increase. That figure was in the middle of the company’s guidance range, which forecast that it could boost its payout at a 10% to 15% annual rate through at least next year. However, after providing an update on what’s coming down the pipeline at its recent Analyst Day, it’s clear that Williams has plenty of growth ahead, beyond 2019. Because of that, income-seeking investors have the chance to scoop up a rock-solid 5% yielding dividend that should grow at a high rate for several years.
A burgeoning backlog of secured expansion projects
Williams Companies is in the midst of a major transition. It recently agreed to acquire the rest of its MLP, Williams Partners (NYSE: WPZ), in a $10.4 billion deal. The pipeline giant is making this acquisition so that it can more easily finance the expansion projects Williams Partners has under development. The transaction would allow it to free up some cash flow and improve its credit metrics, giving it more financial flexibility.
The company needs that financial firepower because Williams Partners has $4.7 billion in projects underway to expand its natural gas pipeline systems that should come on line in stages through early 2021. In addition, Williams Partners has another $2.6 billion of natural gas gathering and processing projects and other expansions that should start up by the end of next year. Overall, William expects to invest $3.1 billion on growth projects this year — $400 million more than initially planned after securing several additional projects — and $2.6 billion in 2019. These expansions position the company to grow cash flow by about 9% this year and another 13% in 2019. Meanwhile, it has a good head start on potentially maintaining that healthy growth rate in 2020 and beyond.
But wait, there’s more
Williams Companies also has several other expansion opportunities currently under evaluation that make it increasingly likely the company can continue growing at a high rate. The company noted that it had $5 billion of projects under advanced evaluation that it was close to approving. Those are just some of the more than $20 billion of opportunities the company has identified. Because of that, Williams believes it should have no problem investing at least $2.5 billion to $3 billion per year on high-return expansion projects.
Williams noted that it’s pursuing more than 20 expansion projects on its key Transco pipeline alone that give it increased visibility into the future. The company pointed out two projects in advanced stages of negotiation that would extend the pipeline’s reach into new markets and increase the gas it moves to existing ones. Meanwhile, the company’s pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico are near several recent oil and gas discoveries, making them well positioned to capture this future growth. In addition, the company has strategically located assets in several other fast-growing regions, making them ideal for future expansion.
An increasingly compelling opportunity for income seekers
Williams Companies is becoming a high-growth, high-yield machine. Once the company completes the acquisition of its MLP, it will cover its 5% yielding payout with cash flow by a very comfortable 1.6 times this year, and it expects 2019’s dividend coverage to be 1.7 times, even after increasing the payout another 10% to 15%. Meanwhile, the company has plenty of growth lined up to continue pushing both cash flow and the dividend higher in the coming years. That income with upside makes Williams look like an attractive stock to hold for the next several years.
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