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Ben Reynolds
Ben Reynolds
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Pembina Pipeline: Monthly Dividends and Robust Growth From Veresen Merger

Analyzing the investment prospects this Canadian MLP in detail

(Published by Nicholas McCullum on May 19)

Midstream energy companies are widely known to be a source of quality dividend income.

In many ways, midstream companies benefit from favorable economics. They benefit from the continued necessity of oil in the worldwide economy while being exposed to much less commodity price risk than their peers in the refining or exploration industries.

Pembina Pipeline Corp. (NYSE:PBA) (TSX:PPL) is one example of a midstream company rewarding its shareholders with high dividend income. This Canadian company – cross-listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange – currently has a 4.7% dividend yield, more than twice the average yield of the S&P 500.

For investors looking for stocks with even higher yields, click here to see the list of 295 established companies with 5%-plus dividend yields.

Pembina Pipeline’s common stock is unique among midstream oil companies because the dividends are paid monthly. For retirees or other investors that rely on dividend income to cover expenses, this is highly superior to quarterly dividend payments.

You can see the list of all monthly dividend stocks here.

Pembina's high dividend yield and monthly dividend payments make it an intriguing investment from an income perspective.

Business overview & merger with Veresen

Pembina Pipeline is a Canadian pure-play energy infrastructure company based in Calgary.

With a market capitalization of $17 billion at the time of writing, Pembina is a member of the TSX 60 – the 60 largest companies in Canada by market capitalization.

Pembina is known for its phenomenal track record of delivering outsized total returns.

The company’s 10-year total return performance is compared to its benchmark – the S&P/TSX Energy Infrastructure Index – in the diagram below.

PBA Pembina Pipeline We Provide Sustainable Industry-Leading Returns to Our Shareholders (10 Years)

Source: Pembina Pipeline 2016 Investor Day Presentation, slide 16

On May 1, Pembina announced its intention to merge with Veresen Inc. (TSX:VSN) – another Canadian midstream company – to create a "leading North American energy infrastructure company." In many ways, this is similar to the merger of Enbridge Inc. (NYSE:ENB) and Spectra Energy Corp. (NYSE:SE) earlier this year.

The transaction value is approximately $9.7 billion, including the assumption of debt. Here are some details of the transaction from the company’s press release:

“Pembina is offering to acquire all of the outstanding Veresen common shares in exchange for either (i) 0.4287 of a common share of Pembina or (ii) $18.65 in cash, subject to pro-ration based on maximum share consideration of approximately 99.5 million Pembina common shares and maximum cash consideration of approximately $1.523 billion. Assuming full pro-ration, each Veresen shareholder would receive $4.8494 in cash and 0.3172 of a common share of Pembina for each Veresen common share. This offer represents a 21.8 percent premium to Veresen’s 20 day weighted average price of $15.31 and a 22.5 percent premium to Veresen’s closing share price of $15.23 on April 28, 2017.”

Current Pembina shareholders are expected to own approximately 80% of the combined company and existing Veresen shareholders are expected to own the remaining 20%. Investors should be pleased to hear the executive management and board members of Veresen are electing to receive the all-stock proceeds of the transaction, if approved.

Details of how the combined company compares to the current Pembina and Veresen businesses can be seen below.

PBA Pembina Represents A Unique Investment Opportunity

Source: Pembina Pipeline 2016 Investor Day Presentation, slide 7

This merger will dramatically increase Pembina’s existing scale-based competitive advantage.

The Veresen merger will make the combined company the fourth-largest energy infrastructure company in Canada, behind:

  • Enbridge
  • TransCanada Corp. (TRP)
  • Enbridge Income Fund (ENF)

Quantitatively, the Veresen transaction will increase Pembina’s total enterprise value by 45% (to $33 billion) and expected 2018 EBITDA by 45% (to a guidance range of $2.55 billion to $2.75 billion).

PBA Pembina Pipeline Larger and Stronger Together

Source: Pembina Pipeline 2016 Investor Day Presentation, slide 90

More importantly, the transaction will meaningfully improve the operational diversification of both existing companies.

Looking at hydrocarbon mix, Veresen was highly concentrated in gas, while Pembina was focused on crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs). The new entity will have a roughly even mix of these three hydrocarbons.

From a geographic perspective, Veresen has a much better U.S.-Canada split (nearly 50-50) than Pembina does. Once the transaction closes, the new entity is expected to generate approximately 28% of 2018’s EBITDA from the United States and will benefit from new exposure to the U.S. Rockies geography.

More details about how the Veresen transaction improves the company’s operational diversification can be seen below.

PBA Key Strategic Rationale is Diversification

Source: Pembina Pipeline 2016 Investor Day Presentation, slide 11

Moving on, we will discuss Pembina's growth prospects.

Growth prospects

The historical growth of Pembina has been nothing short of amazing.

PBA Pembina Pipeline We Provide Sustainable Industry-Leading Returns To Our Shareholders

Source: Pembina Pipeline 2016 Investor Day Presentation, slide 17

Investors should rightly be curious if the company’s historical growth can continue.

Fortunately, the company has a strong growth runway. There are many areas of the energy infrastructure business that Pembina has not penetrated.

These new potential business lines (along with a rough timeline of their introduction) can be seen in the following diagram.

PBA Pembina Pipeline A Proven Track Record of Value Chain Investment and Extension

Source: Pembina Pipeline 2016 Investor Day Presentation, slide 22

Pembina will also benefit from a likely recovery in commodity prices. The company’s stock has been impacted by declining oil prices and is trading well below its all-time high from 2014.

Now that the price of oil is starting to show signs of life, Pembina has the potential to return to past highs.

PBA Pembina Pipeline Modest Recovery to Stability in Commodity

Source: Pembina Pipeline 2016 Investor Day Presentation, slide 31

Pembina will also benefit from the previously discussed merger with Veresen.

This company will have a much-improved asset base and is expecting to realize substantial cost synergies as duplicate costs are identified and eliminated.

More specifically, Pembina is expecting to realize $75 million to $100 million of annualized cost synergies in the first full fiscal year after the merger with Veresen.

While Pembina will be able to reduce expenses after the merger, the company will also benefit from substantially higher revenues.

The new company will have $20 billion of unsecured growth opportunities and $4 billion to $6 billion of near-term secured growth opportunities.

PBA Pembina Pipeline Transaction Highlights

Source: Pembina-Veresen Transaction Presentation, slide 4

Altogether, it appears Pembina has very bright growth prospects, bolstered by the recently announced merger with Veresen.

Competitive advantage & recession performance

Pembina’s competitive advantage comes from being an established player in an industry with two significant barriers to entry.

The first barrier to entry is regulatory. Due to the nature of pipeline construction, new projects must be approved by regulatory agencies. Sometimes this approval can be very difficult to receive.

The second barrier to entry is scale-based. Pipelines are extraordinarily capital-intensive to construct. Pembina’s large size gives it a scale-based competitive advantage over its smaller competitors.

To sum up, Pembina is already an entrenched player in the energy infrastructure industry and will be the fourth-largest company by enterprise value after the Veresen merger is completed. These barriers to entry give Pembina a durable competitive advantage.

Pembina appears to be fairly recession-resistant. The company continued to grow its dividend from 2007 to 2009 during the depths of the global financial crisis (although it kept its payout constant from 2009 to 2011).

Looking ahead, the company’s financial strength (relative to many other oil and gas companies) helps to ensure it will perform similarly well during the next recession.

Pembina has an investment-grade BBB credit rating, which it is committed to maintaining through the Veresen merger. Further, each of the company’s leverage metrics will be in its target range after the transaction is completed.

PBA Pembina Pipeline Commitment to a Strong BBB Credit Rating

Source: Pembina Pipeline 2016 Investor Day Presentation, slide 85

The company has five financial goals – which it calls "guard rails" – it is using to maintain its credit rating.

Investors should be pleased to see each of these metrics is either going to improve or stay constant after the Pembina-Veresen transaction.

PBA Pembina Pipeline Financial Guard Rail Considerations

Source: Pembina Pipeline 2016 Investor Day Presentation, slide 83

Pembina also benefits from a long-dated debt maturity profile.

Pembina’s outstanding bonds have a weighted average maturity of 13 years, which compares well to the industry average of eight years.

Intuitively, you would think Pembina’s long-dated debt maturity profile would mean the company has a higher interest expense than its peers. Longer maturity bonds have higher yields than shorter maturity bonds, all else being equal.

Surprisingly, this is not the case. Pembina’s weighted average coupon payment is 4.3% versus the industry average of 4.6%.

More details about Pembina’s current outstanding debt can be seen below.

PBA Pembina Pipeline Long-Dated Debt Maturity Profile

Source: Pembina Pipeline 2016 Investor Day Presentation, slide 96

Altogether, the company’s historical performance and current balance sheet positioning suggest it will likely perform reasonably well through the next recession.

Valuation & expected total returns

Future returns for Pembina’s shareholders will be composed of the stock’s current dividend yield, future valuation changes and growth in the company’s earnings power.

Pembina currently pays a monthly dividend of 17 Canadian cents (13 U.S. cents) per share, which yields 4.7% on the company’s current stock price of CA$43.25. The company’s stock listing on the NYSE will trade at a similar yield under normal circumstances.

Assessing the valuation of the Pembina Pipeline is difficult because the company’s large fixed asset base generates substantial depreciation and amortization charges. These accounting charges reduce GAAP earnings per share, which makes it troublesome to measure the company using the traditional price-earnings ratio.

There are a number of valuation techniques that can be used as an alternative: EV/EBIDTA and price-to-FFO are two of the more common fundamental metrics.

For a simpler (and likely equally effective) alternative, investors can compare Pembina’s current dividend yield to its historical dividend yield. As mentioned, the company currently yields 4.7%.

This yield is compared to the company’s long-term average in the diagram below.

NYSE:PBA) Dividend Yield History" src="https://userupload.gurufocus.com/19May20170819171495199957.png" />

Source: YCharts

Pembina’s current dividend yield is roughly in line with its average dividend yield over the past several years. Thus, I would not expect valuation changes to have a material impact on the company’s future shareholder returns.

Aside from dividend payments and valuation changes, the remainder of Pembina’s expected total returns will be composed of growth in the company’s earnings power.

Pembina aims to achieve 8% to 10% annual growth in cash flow (see the above slide on "guard rails"). Based on the company’s impressive track record, I believe this is possible, though investors may want to expect a more modest growth rate of 7% to 9%.

Altogether, Pembina’s future shareholder returns will be composed of:

  • 4.7% dividend yield
  • 7% to 9% growth in cash flow per share

For total returns of roughly 11.7% to 13.7% over full economic cycles before the impact of valuation changes.

Tax implications

Since Pembina Pipeline is a Canadian company, investors should be concerned about the tax implications of dividends from an investment in this midstream company.

Normally, the withholding tax on Canadian dividends for stocks held by international investors is 25%. This means that for every dollar of gross dividends paid, the Canadian government will withhold 25 cents (and additional tax will be paid to the IRS come tax time).

Due to a special treaty between the Canadian government and the United States government, however, this withholding tax is reduced to 15% for U.S. investors. This means that for every dollar of dividends paid by Pembina to U.S. investors, 15 cents will be withheld on the Canadian side (and further tax will be paid to the IRS).

There is an alternative to paying this withholding tax, however. The withholding tax is waived when Pembina shares are held in tax-advantaged accounts like Roth IRAs, Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s.

With all this in mind, investors looking to generate portfolio income from an investment in Pembina would be best served to hold the shares in a tax-advantaged account.

Final thoughts

Pembina Pipeline's high dividend yield and monthly dividend payments are some of the biggest reasons why investors might take an initial interest in the company’s publicly traded securities.

Looking more closely, Pembina appears to be well positioned to grow over the mid- to long term. The stock has been depressed from its 2014 high due to low oil prices, but the recently announced Veresen merger has the potential to restore this stock to its previous growth trajectory.

Pembina’s current dividend yield and growth guidance together give a high probability of double-digit total returns for today’s shareholders. Additionally, Pembina appears to be reasonably valued for investors desiring to initiate a position today.

Disclosure: I am not long any of the stocks mentioned in this article.

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About the author:

Ben Reynolds
I run Sure Dividend, a website that finds high quality dividend stocks for long term investors using the 8 Rules of Dividend Investing.

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