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Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (KMP) & An Earnings Recap

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Now that almost all of our favorite midstream companies have reported first-quarter earnings, it’s time to take a look at the group’s performance as a whole. Today we’ll recap a few big winners and losers, and make note of any trends that could affect your investments.

Winners
Given the current state of U.S. energy production, most midstream companies are winners these days. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE:KMP) got things started off on the right foot, reporting in mid-April and beating expectations on revenue and EPS. Here are some highlights from around the industry:

Buckeye Partners, L.P. (NYSE:BPL) trounced analyst expectations on the top and bottom lines, and recorded a distribution coverage ratio of 1.21 times payouts, allowing the partnership to boost its distribution.

DCP Midstream Partners, LP (NYSE:DPM) distributable cash flow popped 40% year over year, and the partnership completed its Eagle Ford dropdown transaction with parent company DCP Midstream Partners, LP (NYSE:DPM), boosting its stake in the lucrative South Texas shale play.

Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, LP (NYSE:BWP)‘ operating revenue and net income increased 5% and 10% year over year. More importantly, distributable cash flow popped 24%, though the partnership elected to hold the distribution flat quarter over quarter.

Energy Transfer Partners LP (NYSE:ETP) had no distribution increase either, but things are looking better than they have in a while. Production in the Eagle Ford Shale is driving growth at ETP, and the partnership is reorganizing into an operation that is stronger and more diverse than ever before.

Very strong results here, now let’s take a look at some midstream companies that didn’t perform as well.

Participation trophies
Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE:EEP) and ONEOK, Inc. (NYSE:OKE) have seen better days. Enbridge Energy reported a net income loss of $67.7 million. Volumes on its liquids pipelines were flat, but low NGL prices crushed earnings. On top of that, certain crude oil systems are suffering mightily, particularly Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE:EEP)’s North Dakota lines, were volumes were cut in half because producers are opting to utilize rail transportation.

ONEOK Partners watched its distributable cash flow plummet more than $80 million, year over year. It too was stung by low NGL prices, as operating income in that segment fell $40 million. As you might have guessed, the effect of low NGL prices is one of our industry trends, so let’s take a closer look.

Trends
Diversity is absolutely crucial in the midstream business, and Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE:EEP) can testify to that. The price of natural gas liquids remains depressed, and many of these companies take possession of their NGLs at one stage or another, resulting in slumping margins that hurt the bottom line. While this trend hit different companies in different ways — and you should know exactly how it could hurt yours — the bigger midstream entities mitigated the loss with multiple revenue streams.

For example, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE:KMP) got pinched by NGL prices in its CO2 segment. The company produces NGLs out in the Permian Basin, and therefore is very much on the hook for low prices. However, this segment still grew 1% year over year because production growth hit a record high, and this segment also includes the partnership’s crude oil production. Plus, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE:KMP) has four other business segments that make serious contributions to its results and help mitigate the NGL pricing pain.

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