Amidst the of cacophony of Wall Street earnings, lesser-known companies can report stellar results that get muted in the headlines about more popular stock names.
Oil and gas pipeline companies are great places to find diamonds in the rough. Natural gas inventories in the U.S. are high, keeping prices low and resulting in strong demand from utilities and other industries.
The widespread use of natural gas means that a reliable network of pipelines must be available to process and transport it. Pipeline capacity is the largest concern for drillers. But it should be a recipe for success if you're an oil and gas pipeline company, like Atlas Pipeline Partners, LP (NYSE: APL).
Atlas is a Master Limited Partnership (MLP) - a company structured in such as way that passes taxable gains onto partners and shareholders and allows Atlas to pay a heftier dividend than most companies.
As a MLP, Atlas must pass at least 90% of its earnings to shareholders in the form of dividends. With the dividend increase to $2.52 per year the stock generates a current yield of 7.1%. Investors should note that the company raised its dividend 70% since 2011.
APL reported better-than-expected numbers during its recent earnings release. Atlas generated a record 1.5 billion cubit feet per day of gas volumes. It also expanded production capacity by more than 21% in the past three months with the addition of new facilities in Oklahoma and Texas. Adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) were up 8% year-over-year to $92.9 million.
Earnings per share growth next year is expected to be a jaw-dropping 505% with a long term growth rate of 35%. Quarterly earnings growth year-over-year is nearly 151%. Compared to the company's biggest competitor, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, LP (NYSE: KMP), Atlas is fundamentally stronger. Kinder lags in long term EPS growth of just 8.7% and pays a smaller dividend of 6.8% as well.
APL has experienced heavy insider buying in the past three months. Nearly a third of the company's trading volume for the first half of the year occurred during that period. Many believe that strong buying by insiders indicate management's belief in positive growth expectations for the future.
Risks to Consider: As a natural gas processing and transportation company, Atlas could face pressure if natural gas prices begin to rise. The short float of 10% may keep prices artificially low for an extended period of time as well making it an investment for investors with a long-term view.
Actions to Take --> A fair price target for Atlas is about $37 given its strong long term EPS growth. With the additional dividend of $2.52 annually, this stock is trading at a discount of around 17%.