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Atlas Energy LP (ATLS) Turns on the Gas in Transformational Deal

The management team at oil and gas company Atlas Energy LP (NYSE:ATLS) has really taken Warren Buffett’s advice to heart. Buffett’s old adage to “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful” seems to be that team’s approach. After selling its shale assets to Chevron at the top of the market, the company has been diligently acquiring natural gas assets at the market’s low. That blueprint continues to be followed as evidenced by the recently announced acquisition of substantial natural gas assets via its master limited partnership, Atlas Resource Partners, L.P. (NYSE:ARP).

Atlas Energy LPAtlas Energy LP (NYSE:ATLS)’ latest deal adds 466 billion cubic feet of natural gas reserves which it’s purchasing from EP Energy for $733 million. These assets are located in the Raton Basin in New Mexico and Black Warrior Basin of Alabama and are currently producing about 119 million cubic feet of natural gas per day which practically doubles Atlas’ current net production. Even more important is that these assets come with very low decline rates of 8%-10%, which also lowers Atlas Energy LP (NYSE:ATLS)’ pro forma decline rate to 11%. That means the company needs to invest less maintenance capital to keep its production steady.

For Atlas Energy LP (NYSE:ATLS)’ investors, the most important aspect of this acquisition is that it will enable the company to provide a substantial distribution increase to its investors next year. Atlas sees a minimum distribution of at least $2.60 per unit next year which represents a 27% increase over the current annualized distribution of $2.04 per unit. That means investors can lock in a yield of nearly 12% by purchasing units today.

As this deal clearly demonstrates, when the right deal comes along it can add significant income accretion to unit holders of oil and gas MLPs. We’ve seen several instances of this in the sector this year with Linn Energy LLC (NASDAQ:LINE)‘s announced acquisition of Berry Petroleum Company (NYSE:BRY) for $4.3 billion adding in excess of $0.40 per unit to its distributable cash flow. That deal is the driving force behind Linn Energy LLC (NASDAQ:LINE)’s announced 6.2% distribution increase, which will go into effect when the deal closes next quarter.

Other industry peers like BreitBurn Energy Partners L.P. (NASDAQ:BBEP) have gone on record stating that it will see a $0.21 accretion to its distributable cash flow by investing $500 million to acquire assets that meet its criteria. Its consistent acquisition activity has produced distribution growth of 27% since the first quarter of 2010.

The problem, though, is finding that right deal at the right price. Vanguard Natural Resources, LLC (NASDAQ:VNR) for example reviews about 150 acquisition candidates each year and whittles that down to about 50 that are evaluated more deeply. Since its IPO, the company has only closed 18 transaction as few meet the stringent requirements needed to move the needle. It’s a similar story at BreitBurn Energy Partners L.P. (NASDAQ:BBEP) which screened 500 opportunities last year but just closed seven deals for about $600 million.

For Atlas Energy LP (NYSE:ATLS) investors this was the right deal at the right time. The company was able to snap up cheap natural gas assets which will yield a significant boost to its distribution. The assets also help to bring down the company’s decline rate which provides an important base to the distribution. When added to the company’s more than 1,200 potential drill sites throughout its portfolio, Atlas has a range of opportunities to grow through the drill-bit as it continues to seek out additional accretive acquisition opportunities.

The article Atlas Turns on the Gas in Transformational Deal originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Matt DiLallo.

Fool contributor Matt DiLallo owns shares of LINN Energy, LLC. The Motley Fool recommends BreitBurn Energy Partners L.P. (NASDAQ:BBEP)

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