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MPLX LP (MPLX), Holly Energy Partners, L.P. (HEP), Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (SXL): The Market’s Best MLP Spin-off

When Phillips 66 spun off its midstream assets into a master limited partnership, the market was thrilled. The spin off, PSXP, had the third-biggest MLP IPO pop in history as investors flocked to the idea of a mature business generating stable revenue. Based on previous announcements, there is potential that at least three more refiners will attempt a similar move between now and the end of next year.

With that in mind, today we’re examining a few refining midstream spin-offs that have been on the Street for a bit, to see if there really is long term value for investors.


The upside to spin
Before we get into the numbers, let’s address the logical upside to midstream spin-offs from an investing perspective. First and foremost, these are mature businesses. While the master limited partnership business structure may be new to these companies, running an oil and refined products logistics operation is not. In most cases, management has already proved itself, and that is comforting.

The second upside is a clear plan for growth. Many of the parent company refiners start up their MLPs with midstream assets that don’t constitute their entire logistics footprint. This allows for drop-downs, or sales from the parent to the MLP, which grow the footprint and, accordingly, the distributions. Parent companies own the general partner stake and incentive distribution rights in the MLPs, which encourages them to continue to grow the MLPs’ asset bases. Generally, the more transparent the growth plan, the more favorably the market reacts to the MLP over time.

Existing spin offs
Outside of PSXP, there are four major midstream MLPs borne of refiners. As of this writing, only two of them are outperforming the 18.52% year-to-date total return of the S&P 500:

MLP Yield Total Return (YTD)
MPLX LP (NYSE:MPLX) 3.30% 16.7%
Tesoro Logistics 3.80% 28.0%
Holly Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE:HEP) 5.30% 14.4%
Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (NYSE:SXL) 3.70% 36.8%

Source: Yahoo! Finance, Ycharts .

MPLX LP (NYSE:MPLX) and Holly Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE:HEP) lag the market slightly, while Tesoro Logistics and Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (NYSE:SXL) are trouncing it.

As the year-to-date performances vary, so do the post-IPO performances of these MLPs:

MLP IPO Lifetime Performance
MPLX 2012 29.2%
Tesoro Logistics 2011 133.3%
Holly Energy Partners 2004 194.1%
Sunoco Logistics 2002 796.5%

Source: Yahoo! Finance, Ycharts.

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