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Alliance Resource Partners, L.P. (ARLP), Walter Energy, Inc. (WLT): Buy This Coal Producer Yielding 6.7% With 47% Upside

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Master Limited Partnership Alliance Resource Partners, L.P. (NASDAQ:ARLP) is down 12% from its recent high unit price of $78.5. At today’s price of about $68, the units are yielding 6.6%, which is superb for a coal producer. Superb that is, if the distribution is not at risk of being cut. Not only is Alliance Resource Partners, L.P. (NASDAQ:ARLP)’s distribution safe, it has risen at a compound annual growth rate of 15% since 2003!

Alliance Resource Partners, L.P.

The distribution has increased by an annualized 12.5% over the past three years, arguably the worst period for coal producers in decades. Assuming that Alliance Resource Partners, L.P. (NASDAQ:ARLP)’s distribution rises at a reduced 9% a year for the next two years, the annualized distribution would climb from $4.52 to $5.37 per unit.

Range of Two-Year Total Returns Looks Compelling

The implied unit prices in two years at assumed distribution yields of 5.5%, 6.0%, 6.5%, 7.0% and 7.5% are $97.6, $89.5, $82.6, $76.7 and $71.6, respectively. At those unit prices, the total two-year return (including two years of distributions) would be 59.5%, 47.5%, 37%, 28.5% and 21%, respectively. This analysis assumes that distribution growth after two years remains near 9%. These prospective two-year returns are in line with the 10-yr annualized return from 2003 of about 25%.

Don’t Look to Coal Producers for Yield…

Investors don’t typically rely on yield when investing in coal producers, and for good reason. Until 2012, yields on coal names maxed out at about 2%. Today, there are higher yields to be had. For example, Walter Energy, Inc. (NYSE:WLT) has a 4.4% yield, but its dividend is far from safe. Walter Energy, Inc. (NYSE:WLT) last raised its quarterly dividend from $0.10 to $0.125 in May, 2010. Back then, with the stock at $77 per share, the yield was 0.65%.

Canadian company Teck Resources Ltd (USA) (NYSE:TCK) has a current yield of 4.2%. Teck Resources Ltd (USA) (NYSE:TCK) doubled its semi-annual dividend from June 2010 to December 2011 to an annual yield of about 2% at that time. Teck is the second largest premium hard coking coal producer in the world. While coking coal prices are quite depressed, the company also produces copper, which has held up better.

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc (NYSE:CLF) has a 3.7% yield. Interestingly, had Cliffs Natural Resources Inc (NYSE:CLF) not cut its dividend by 76% in November 2012 its stock would be yielding 15.4% today. Cliffs is under a lot of pressure to maintain its recently slashed dividend.

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