Energy Transfer: Looking For Warts

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Since nan mediate of 2020, Energy Transfer (NYSE:ET) investors person enjoyed a good run.

Over nan past two-and-a-half years, ET communal units appreciated ~82% and nan 4Q 2022 rate distribution (paid February 2023) has been afloat restored to nan erstwhile $0.305 mark.

Indeed, caller investor liking successful ET resulted successful nan banal easy outpacing nan Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP). AMLP is an infrastructure MLP scale pinch holdings concentrated successful nan astir salient pipeline MLPs.

Energy Transfer Unit Price v Alerian MLP ETF (June 30, 2020 to date)

Energy Transfer portion value versus Alerian MLP ETF

Some events contributing to Energy Transfer's surge:

  • debt leverage has been reduced to 4.3x, good wrong nan 4.0x to 4.5x scope outlined by nan in installments standing agencies for Energy Transfer to clasp its investment-grade rating.

  • major maturation capex walk has fallen to astir a 3rd of operating cash travel versus astir 70% aliases greater anterior to 2021.

  • the Enable Midstream acquisition (closed December 2021) turned retired to beryllium a well-managed, well-integrated acquisition.

  • as noted above, nan aged $1.22 annualized rate distribution has been reinstated, indicating a patient (and safe) 9.56% yield.

Clear Sailing Ahead?

Previously, Energy Transfer guidance ever seemed to beryllium fighting entanglements; operational, financial, and legal. The Boo-Birds were retired successful force. Lately, not truthful much.

Therefore, this whitethorn beryllium an opportune clip to:

  • search for operational / financial soft spots

  • perform a regular valuation exercise; are nan communal units inexpensive aliases dear?

Where are nan Warts?

I attempted to do immoderate digging to spot what I could uncover. In this article, I item nan pursuing areas:

  • margin

  • return-on-invested-capital

I compared Energy Transfer head-to-head pinch nan midstream MLP galore see nan golden standard: Enterprise Products Partners (EPD).

Note to readers: The pursuing separator and return calculations were performed by nan writer utilizing SEC filings and Energy Transfer / Enterprise Products website financial reports arsenic recovered here and here, respectively.

Margin Overview

I stock my separator study findings complete nan pursuing categories:

  • gross margins

  • DCF (distributable rate flow) margins

  • adjusted EBITDA margins

  • current FCF (free rate flow) margin

Let's return these one-by-one.

Gross Margins

Broadly, gross profit separator is nan money near complete aft a company's costs to nutrient equipment aliases services are deducted from its gross and expressed arsenic a usability of full revenue.

Here's 3 years' worthy of information for Energy Transfer and Enterprise Products Partners.

Gross Margin Analysis – Energy Transfer and Enterprise Products %




Enterprise Products




Energy Transfer




Energy Transfer registered amended gross margins, though I would not make excessively overmuch of it. The businesses are comparable, but not identical. The differentials are not tremendous. However, complete nan past 3 years margins for some companies person fallen considerably.

Initially, I was concerned erstwhile I recovered Energy Transfer margins had compressed truthful much. However, aft it became evident nan aforesaid point occurred astatine Enterprise, nan results are not alarming.

FWIW, some Enterprise and Energy Transfer recorded below-average gross margins versus nan Oil, Gas, and Consumable Fuels industry.

Distributable Cash Flow Margins

DCF Margin Analysis – Energy Transfer and Enterprise Products %




Enterprise Products




Energy Transfer




Perhaps surprisingly, complete nan past 3 years, some companies person knowledgeable worldly DCF separator deterioration.

EPD records consistently amended margins.

Notably, changes successful moving superior tin impact these margins. Last twelvemonth Energy Transfer had ample moving superior movement, while Enterprise did not. For example, if 1 adjusts 2022 DCF results to destruct nett delta moving capital, Energy Transfer DCF separator improves to 10.0% while Enterprise Products eases to 13.2%.

Nonetheless, connected equilibrium Enterprise has amended DCF margins.

Adjusted EBITDA Margins

Another emblematic manufacture metric is adjusted EBITDA. I don't peculiarly attraction for this measure, but it's a coin-of-the-realm.

EBITDA Margin Analysis – Energy Transfer and Enterprise Products %




Enterprise Products




Energy Transfer




We again spot a three-year simplification successful EBITDA margins. It suggests contempt ample yearly increases successful full income there's been nary operating leverage.

Since 2020, Enterprise Products improved gross by 114 percent. However, adjusted EBITDA separator only accrued 16 percent. Comparably, complete nan aforesaid play Energy Transfer gross jumped 130 percent while adjusted EBITDA precocious conscionable 25 percent.

None withstanding, for purposes of this analysis, EPD recorded amended EBITDA margins.

Are nan deltas ample capable to warrant precocious differentials successful banal valuation? Read connected and you tin decide.

Free Cash Flow Margin

While moving connected this comparison, I decided to cheque 1 much margin: FCF. Energy Transfer guidance doesn't item this figure, but Enterprise Products does. Therefore, for purposes of this exercise, I utilized nan EPD methodology successful bid to get nan champion apples-for-apples results possible.

In 2022, Energy Transfer FCF separator handily outperformed: 6.7 percent versus 5.1 percent for EPD.

In 2021, Energy Transfer trailed 9.7 percent versus 12.1 percent for EPD.

Prior to 2021, Energy Transfer was spending truthful overmuch connected maturation superior it skewed nan results heavy towards Enterprise.

Margin Analysis Conclusions

Working done this workout didn't connection a awesome woody of revelations. However, it did explain immoderate wide trends.

For nan play 2020 done 2022, neither institution demonstrated affirmative operational leverage. High increases successful income did not construe into gross profit, DCF, aliases EBITDA margins.

Enterprise Products appears to person exhibited amended wide margins, but whether these are worldly capable to beryllium superior operational capacity is not clear.

In 2022, Energy Transfer recorded amended FCF separator versus Enterprise, though these positions had been reversed successful 2021.


Return connected invested superior (ROIC) is simply a calculation utilized to find really good a institution allocates its superior to profitable projects aliases investments.

For respective years, I've pointed retired Energy Transfer appears to make comparatively anemic RoIC versus peers.

For 2022 and compared pinch Enterprise Products Partners, nan inclination remains intact.

Notably, location are respective ways to cipher RoIC. First cut, I utilized a broad-brush approach.

RoIC = (distributable rate flow) divided by (total assets minus existent liabilities minus equilibrium expanse cash)

Typically, nan numerator of this look is EBIT aliases NOPAT. For midstream companies, I for illustration utilizing distributable rate flow.

Bottom line, successful 2022 Energy Transfer RoIC was 7.9 percent, while Enterprise Products Partners came successful astatine 14.0 percent.

Peeling nan bulb further, I experimented pinch immoderate adjustments.

First, I thought Energy Transfer whitethorn beryllium getting penalized for what I thought was comparatively precocious M&A activity. So, arsenic aligned pinch writer Joel Greenblatt successful his book, “The Little Book That Still Beats nan Market,” I subtracted goodwill and intangible assets from nan RoIC denominator.

Somewhat surprisingly, it widened nan RoIC differential: ET 8.6 percent versus EPD 17.0 percent.

Next, I added 2022 plus income into nan equation. Enterprise guidance includes proceeds from plus income erstwhile calculating its DCF figure. Energy Transfer does not.

The result: it didn't move nan needle much. ET RoIC roseate to 8.3 percent versus EPD astatine 14.0 percent.

RoIC Conclusion

As measured by return-on-invested capital, Energy Transfer continues to lag best-in-class midstream usability Enterprise Products by a important margin.

A Look astatine Valuation

For those who've followed my Energy Transfer articles, I've utilized various valuation methodologies successful bid to travel up pinch Fair Value Estimates. Today, I'll attraction upon 2 metrics I particularly for illustration for midstream companies ET and EPD:

  • Price-to-DCF

  • Enterprise Value-to-EBITDA

Current P / DCF utilizing TTM figures show Energy Transfer has a 5.3x multiple, while Enterprise enjoys a 7.3x multiple.

Pivoting to EV / EBITDA, Energy Transfer sports a 7.2x ratio. Enterprise Products Partners units bid a superior 8.9x ratio.

Valuation Conclusions

Based upon nan foregoing, each things considered, what is simply a reasonable Fair Value Estimate for ET communal units?

I taxable $17 to $18.

That's astir a 30 percent uplift from nan existent bid and excludes nan rate distribution.

It is nary longer clear to maine why nan Street doesn't grant Energy Transfer ballpark valuation multiples versus Enterprise Products Partners. Based upon nan information and caller humanities performance, ET mightiness expect a fraction of a move little connected various valuation multiples, but not 2 afloat turns.

Presuming Energy Transfer banal generates 2023 distributable rate travel and EBITDA comparable to 2022 (per existent guidance), maintains its 4.0x to 4.5x indebtedness leverage ratio, and continues to salary a $0.305 quarterly rate distribution, I deliberation investors should stay diligent and expect an eventual ~7x DCF ratio and ~8.5x EV/EBITDA ratio.

Side notes to readers: I judge ET guidance is considering retiring preferred stock. The earliest day immoderate of nan preferred flavors travel owed is May 15, 2023. Management doesn't person to extremity its manus early. Let's hold for nan adjacent net merchandise and convention telephone to spot really things cookware out. I spot nary logic to beforehand tally it.

Please do your ain observant owed diligence earlier making immoderate finance decision. This article is not a proposal to bargain aliases waste immoderate stock. Good luck pinch each your 2023 investments.

This article was written by

Ray Merola floor plan picture

Individual investor focused upon a constricted number of diversified stocks. Seeks stocks trading beneath adjacent worth estimates; favors dividend maturation and/or income. Advocates basal finance analysis, supplemented by nan method charts. Options strategies chiefly employed to make further income aliases hedge risk. If interested, you whitethorn find retired much astir my finance accuracy successful nan I.S.S. (Investment Strategy Statement) recovered successful my listing of published articles aliases via this link: Investment Strategy Statement - Ray Merola | Seeking Alpha

Disclosure: I/we person a beneficial agelong position successful nan shares of ET, ET.PD, ET.PE either done banal ownership, options, aliases different derivatives. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my ain opinions. I americium not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I person nary business narration pinch immoderate institution whose banal is mentioned successful this article.

Editor: Naga

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