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Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP): An Early Earnings Look

Earnings season is in full swing, with huge numbers of companies having already given their latest numbers to investors, and Energy Transfer Partners LP (NYSE:ETP) is about to release its quarterly earnings report. The key to making smart investment decisions with stocks releasing their quarterly reports is to anticipate how they’ll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you’ll be less likely to make an uninformed knee-jerk reaction to news that turns out to be exactly the wrong move.

Pipeline companies have seen soaring demand from the glut of energy production throughout the U.S., and Energy Transfer Partners is in position to take advantage of that demand with its extensive pipeline network and growth prospects. Let’s take an early look at what’s been happening with Energy Transfer Partners over the past quarter and what we’re likely to see in its quarterly report on Wednesday.

Stats on Energy Transfer Partners

Analyst EPS Estimate $0.42
Change From Year-Ago EPS 2.4%
Revenue Estimate $7.18 billion
Change From Year-Ago Revenue 295%
Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters 1

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Will Energy Transfer Partners deliver good energy this quarter?
Analysts haven’t been very optimistic about Energy Transfer Partners’ bottom-line prospects over the past three months, pulling back their consensus by $0.06 per share for the just-ended quarter and by $0.20 per share for full-year 2013 earnings. But that hasn’t held prices of the MLP’s units back, as they’ve risen more than 14% since mid-November.

Energy Transfer Partners has gone beyond its roots as a Texas-centered niche regional natural-gas transporter and processor to build a nationwide network that spans across nearly a dozen states. With its buyout of Sunoco last year, Energy Transfer added exposure to oil, refined products, and gas liquids, greatly expanding its product base. Moreover, it now owns a substantial minority interest in Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (NYSE:SXL), which adds downstream exposure to the mix.

But the big problem for Energy Transfer investors has been that the MLP hasn’t increased its distributions for more than four years. That stands in stark contrast to industry leader Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE:KMP), which has boosted payouts in each of the past four quarters, and Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (NYSE:EPD), with its impressive streak of 34 consecutive quarterly distribution increases.

When you look at Energy Transfer’s report, you should focus on how the MLP is dealing with continuing weakness in natural-gas prices. Once it’s able to fully integrate its Sunoco acquisition, Energy Transfer needs to present a longer-term plan to boost unit income and reward shareholders for their patience. Otherwise, the MLP units may continue to lag behind their competitors’ performance.

The article Energy Transfer Partners: An Early Earnings Look originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Dan Caplinger.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter: @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Enterprise Products Partners.

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