Energy Business

One Pipeline MLP Gets a Vote of Confidence -- After Another Implodes

Oil pipeline
Source: Thinkstock
Following last Monday’s implosion at Boardwalk Pipeline Partners L.P. (NYSE: BWP), there have been questions raised about the entire pipeline MLP sector and, especially, investors want to know which one could be next. There has been some speculation that El Paso Pipeline Partners L.P. (NYSE: EPB) could be the next candidate for a major cut to its distributions, but the company’s CEO apparently wants to squash that kind of talk.

A Form 4 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday (SEC) reports that El Paso CEO Richard Kinder acquired 100,000 common units of EPB on February 11th for a total payment of approximately $3 million. On the previous day, Tortoise Capital Advisors LLC filed a Schedule 13G with the SEC indicating that it now owns 5.91 million shares of El Paso Pipelines, which is about 2.7% of the pipeline company’s outstanding common units. Although no number is given in the 13G filing, Tortoise checked the box indicating that as of the date of the filing it has “ceased to be a beneficial owner of more than 5%” of EPB’s common units.

Tortoise Capital Advisors manages six publicly traded closed-end funds related to the energy business, including the Tortoise Pipeline & Energy Fund Inc. (NYSE: TTP) and the Tortoise MLP Fund Inc. (NYSE: NTG).

Richard Kinder, who is also the CEO of Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. (NYSE: KMP) did not want to let the sale of Tortoise Capital’s shares raise any questions about the future of El Paso Pipelines. The company’s assets in the Rockies and in the Southeast are not ideally placed relative to the nation’s highest producing natural gas fields. El Paso Pipelines has been struggling, for the same reasons that Boardwalk is struggling, but Boardwalk did not have Kinder Morgan as a backstop.

KMI is selling 50% of its Ruby Pipeline and some other assets to El Paso in dropdown transactions that would help put El Paso back in the tall clover except for the fact that it lost two rate cases last year and will continue to feel the impact from those losses. Like Boardwalk lower demand and lower production in the Rockies is having a negative impact at El Paso.

El Paso paid a distribution of $2.55 per common unit in 2013 and has budgeted a 2% increase to $2.60 per common unit in 2014.