Crestwood Equity Partners (NYSE: CEQP) is coming off a strong first half of 2019. Units of the master limited partnership (MLP) surged more than 25% so far this year, fueled in part by the company’s excellent performance in the first quarter when its growth engine started accelerating.
However, as good as Crestwood’s first half was, the midstream company appears poised to deliver even faster growth in the latter half of 2019. That upcoming upside, when combined with the company’s 6.8% yielding payout, makes it my favorite income opportunity for the second half of 2019 and beyond.
Growth investments are about to pay dividends
Crestwood Equity Partners invested $332 million on organic growth projects last year and expected to spend another $425 million-$475 million on expansions this year. The company has already started benefiting from these investments. They enabled the MLP to gather and process significantly more oil, natural gas, and water in the Bakken shale during the first quarter, which helped grow cash flow 27.9% year over year.
However, an even bigger boost is on the way. Not only does the company expect to complete its Bear Den II processing plant in the Bakken during the third quarter, but it’s working on additional expansions of its Arrow water-gathering system in that region. These projects will enable the company to grow the volume of oil and gas it gathers by 25% this year, while its produced water volumes will expand by 60%. On top of that, the company will continue benefiting from recent expansions of its systems in the Powder River and Delaware Basins, where volumes are still ramping up.
Meanwhile, the company will get an additional boost from its Stagecoach joint venture (JV) with utility Consolidated Edison in the second half. Crestwood currently receives 40% of the cash distributions from that 50-50 JV due to the structure of its initial agreement with Consolidated Edison. However, Crestwood will see that stepped up to 50% this July, which will provide it with an additional $10 million of earnings in the second half.
A needle-moving transaction will provide even more fuel
In addition to the boost from all its organic growth initiatives, Crestwood will get another jolt from a recent acquisition. In April, the company paid $484.6 million for Williams Companies’ (NYSE: WMB) 50% interest in a natural gas gathering and processing joint venture (JV) in the Powder River Basin.
The win-win deal gives Crestwood full control over those assets while providing Williams Companies with cash to pay down debt. The acquisition will immediately double the cash flow Crestwood receives from the business, which is on track to produce $100 million this year. As such, it will provide a meaningful boost to its second-half results.
Not only will Crestwood benefit from that near-term uplift in cash flow, but it will enjoy accelerated growth from this asset over the next two years. The company is currently working on expanding the system, which should grow its cash flow up to $150 million by 2021. Meanwhile, with Williams out of the picture, Crestwood now has full control to pursue other growth opportunities, such as adding crude oil services to its system.
Crestwood’s multiple growth engines could fuel a big second half
Crestwood anticipates that its cash flow will soar 30% this year, thanks to the boost from its expansion projects, the step up from its JV with Consolidated Edison, and its acquisition of Williams Companies’ half of their JV. That fast-growing cash flow will put the company’s high-yielding distribution on an even more sustainable level.
Overall, Crestwood is on track to deliver peer-leading cash flow growth through 2020. That could give it the fuel to not only continue producing market-beating total returns but eventually boost its already sizable distribution to investors. That combination of income and growth make Crestwood one of the more compelling energy stocks to buy these days.
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