A Closer Look at Targa Resources Partners’ Distributable Cash Flow as of 3Q 2012

by Ron Hiram
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Submitted by Ron Hiram of Wise Analysis using our Trefis Contributors tool.

On November 1, 2012, Targa Resources Partners LP (NGLS) reported results of operations for 3Q 2012. . Revenues, operating income, net income and earnings before interest, depreciation & amortization and income tax expenses (EBITDA) for 3Q 2012 and for the trailing 12 months (“TTM”) are summarized in Table 1:

Period: 3Q12 3Q11 TTM 9/30/12 TTM 9/30/11
Revenues 1,393 1,713 6,290 6,575
Operating income 61 72. 367 310
Net income 28 45 252 201
EBITDA 105 118 556 491
Adjusted EBITDA 116 107 531 459
Weighted average units outstanding (million) 89.3 84.8 87.9 81.9

Table 1: Figures in $ Millions, except units outstanding

NGLS’ revenues are principally derived from percent-of-proceeds (“POP”) contracts under which it receives a portion of the natural gas and/or natural gas liquids as payment for its gathering and processing services. POP contracts share price risk between the producer and processor. Operating income generally increases as natural gas prices and natural gas liquid prices increase, and decreases as they decrease. Regarding Adjusted EBITDA, note that Hurricane Isaac reduced it by approximately $8 million in 3Q12.

The breakdown of revenues between those generated by commodity sales and those by fee revenues is summarized in Table 2:

Period: 3Q12 3Q11 TTM 9/30/12 TTM 9/30/11
Sales of commodities
Natural gas sales 252 305 918 1,089
NGL sales 957 1,323 4,726 5,179
Condensate sales 29 26 110 102
Petroleum products 53 - 196 -
Derivative activities 15 (11) 20 (31)
1,306 1,643 5,969 6,340
Fees from midstream services
Fractionating and treating fees 29 26 111 75
Storage, terminaling, transportation , export fees 42 28 141 83
Gas processing fees 12 8 40 32
Other 5 8 29 32
87 70 321 236
Total revenues 1,393 1,713 6,290 6,576

Table 2: Figures in $ Millions

Fees from midstream services increased substantially in the TTM ending 9/30/12 and helped generate an increase in operating income compared to the prior year period.

Given quarterly fluctuations in revenues, working capital needs and other items, it makes sense to also review TTM numbers rather than just quarterly numbers for the purpose of analyzing changes in reported and sustainable distributable cash flows. In an article titled Distributable Cash Flow (“DCF”) I present the definition of DCF used by NGLS and provide a comparison to definitions used by other master limited partnerships (“MLPs”). Using NGLS’ definition, DCF for the TTM period ending 9/30/12 was $375 million ($4.27 per unit) vs. $303 million in the comparable prior year period ($4.18 per unit). As always, I first attempt to assess how these figures compare with what I call sustainable DCF for these periods and whether distributions were funded by additional debt or issuing additional units.

The generic reasons why DCF as reported by an MLP may differ from sustainable DCF are reviewed in an article titled Estimating Sustainable DCF-Why and How. Applying the method described there to NGLS’ results through 9/30/12 generates the comparison outlined in Table 3 below:

Period: 3Q12 3Q11 TTM 9/30/12 TTM 9/30/11
Net cash provided by operating activities 91 (61) 525 324
Less: Maintenance capital expenditures (16) (25) (73) (80)
Less: Working capital (generated) (38) -
Less: Net income attributable to non-controlling interests (4) (9) (35) (37)
Sustainable DCF 70 (95) 379 207
Working capital used 10 132 - 69
Risk management activities 21 3 21
Proceeds from sale of assets / disposal of liabilities (1) 0
Other (3) 7 (7) 6
DCF as reported 77 65 375 303

Table 3: Figures in $ Millions

There are no material differences between reported and sustainable DCF for the TTM ending 9/30/12. The principal differences between sustainable and reported DCF numbers are in the TTM period ending 9/30/11 are attributable to working capital consumed and risk management activities.

Under NGLS’ definition, reported DCF always excludes working capital changes, whether positive or negative. My definition of sustainable DCF only excludes working capital generated (I deduct working capital consumed). As detailed in my prior articles, I generally do not include working capital generated in the definition of sustainable DCF but I do deduct working capital invested. Despite appearing to be inconsistent, this makes sense because in order to meet my definition of sustainability the master limited partnerships should, on the one hand, generate enough capital to cover normal working capital needs. On the other hand, cash generated from working capital is not a sustainable source and I therefore ignore it. Over reasonably lengthy measurement periods, working capital generated tends to be offset by needs to invest in working capital. I therefore do not add working capital consumed to net cash provided by operating activities in deriving sustainable DCF.

Risk management activities present a more complex issue. I do not generally consider cash generated by risk management activities to be sustainable, although I recognize that one could reasonable argue that bona fide hedging of commodity price risks should be included. The NGLS risk management activities seem to be directly related to such hedging, so I could go both ways on this but, in any event, the amounts involved for the periods under review do not materially change the coverage ratios.

Distributions, reported DCF, sustainable DCF and the resultant coverage ratios are as follows:

Period: 3Q12 3Q11 TTM 9/30/12 TTM 9/30/11
Distribution per unit 0.6625 0.5825 2.53 2.29
Distributions made ($ millions) 73 57 268 212
DCF as reported ($ millions) 77 65 375 303
Sustainable DCF ($ millions) 70 (95) 379 207
Coverage ratio based on reported DCF 1.05 1.14 1.40 1.43
Coverage ratio based on sustainable DCF 0.96 Negative 1.41 0.98

Table 4: Figures in $ Millions, except per unit amounts and coverage ratios

While on a TTM basis coverage ratios look robust, on 6/25/12, NGLS announced that due to lower commodity prices it revised its expected distribution coverage for 2012 and 2013 down to 1.00x, assuming $2.50 per MMBtu for natural gas, $80 per barrel for crude oil and $0.75 per gallon for natural gas liquids. The projection also assumes distribution growth for 2012 and beyond. Management’s assessment is that it will increase 2012 distributions by 10%-15% over 2011 while maintaining a coverage ratio of at least 1.0x.

I find it helpful to look at a simplified cash flow statement that nets certain items (e.g., acquisitions against dispositions, debt incurred vs. repaid) and separates cash generation from cash consumption in order to get a clear picture of how distributions have been funded in the last two years. Here is what I see for NGLS:

Simplified Sources and Uses of Funds

Period: 3Q12 3Q11 TTM 9/30/12 TTM 9/30/11
Net cash from operations, less maintenance capex, less net income from non-controlling interests, less distributions - (143) - -
Capital expenditures ex maintenance, net of proceeds from sale of PP&E (110) (51) (409) (186)
Acquisitions, investments (net of sale proceeds) (29) (141) (44) (176)
Cash contributions/distributions related to affiliates & non-controlling interests (4) (5) (23) (41)
Other CF from investing activities, net - (0) - (1)
Other CF from financing activities, net (1) - (5) (6)
(144) (341) (482) (411)
Net cash from operations, less maintenance capex, less net income from non-controlling interests, less distributions 1 - 184 32
Debt incurred (repaid) 140 337 145 82
Partnership units  issued (0) - 168 304
Other CF from investing activities, net 3 - 4 1
Other CF from financing activities, net - - 1 7
144 337 502 425
Net change in cash (1) (4) 20 14

Table 5: Figures in $ Millions

Net cash from operations, less maintenance capital expenditures, less cash related to net income attributable to non-partners exceeded distributions by $184 million in the TTM ended 9/30/12 and by $32 million in the prior year period. However, 4Q11 accounts for $126 million of the $184 million excess in the TTM ended 9/30/12, and 1Q12 accounts for the balance.  There was small shortfall in 2Q12 and zero excess in 3Q12. Nevertheless, during these two TTM periods NGLS did no use cash raised from issuance of debt and equity to fund distributions.

NGLS spent $408 million on acquisitions and growth projects in 2011 and estimated it would spend ~$600 million in 2012 (of which ~$352 million was spent through 3Q12). This estimate became outdated upon the November 15, 2012, announcement of the $950 million acquisition of the Williston Basin crude oil pipeline and terminal system and natural gas gathering and processing operations (“Williston Acquisition”) from Saddle Butte Pipeline LLC. The unit price dropped from $39 to $36.18 following this announcement.

NGLS has kept leverage very low with long term debt (net of cash) at ~2.8x EBITDA for the TTM ending 9/30/12. On October 25, 2012, NGLS privately placed $400 million of 5.25% Notes at 99.5% of par value, raising ~$394 million of net proceeds of which ~$218 million will be used to redeem notes bearing interest at 8.25%. This should save ~$6.5 million per year. The remaining amount, post the note redemption, totals ~$176 million.

Concurrently with the Williston Acquisition announcement, NGLS issued 9.5 million units at $36 per unit. Together with the underwriters’ overallotment option of 1.425 million units, I estimate this offering should generate net proceeds of ~$385 million and assume that NGLS will finance the remaining ~$565 million needed for this acquisition by issuing additional debt (of which ~$176 million is available from the October 25 note offering post the note redemption, and a further ~$389 million is yet to be raised).

It appears to me that NGLS is making this purchase at an expensive EBITDA multiple of ~13.5x (NGLS itself traded at ~9.5x Adjusted EBITDA the day prior to the announcement). This assumes, of course, the Williston assets being purchased do not include cash (or that the amount of cash is insignificant). As I calculate it, given the Incentive Distribution Rights (“IDRs”) held by Targa Resources Corp. (TRGP), the general partner of NGLS, $0.8723 of incremental cash flow per unit per quarter is required to maintain the current quarterly distribution rate $0.6625. However, management guiding to 10%-12% distribution growth (I estimate the numbers to be $2.61 for 2012 and $2.93 for 2013). At this level, I calculate $1.0069 of incremental cash flow per unit per quarter is required and that the 10.925 million additional units will therefore require ~$44 million of additional cash. The ~$565 million of additional debt will require $30 million, for a total of ~$74 million by my rough calculation. It seems that management expects the Williston Acquisition to generate approximately cash roughly equal to that total, because the 2013 estimate of Adjustable EBITDA was increased  by ~$70 million (a 10%-15% increase from the $555 million midpoint of the prior estimate) to reflect the acquisition.

Table 6 below compares NGLS’ current yield of some of the other MLPs I follow:

As of 11/22/12: Price Quarterly Distribution Yield
Magellan Midstream Partners (MMP) $43.30 $0.48500 4.48%
Plains All American Pipeline (PAA) $46.24 $0.54250 4.69%
Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (EPD) $51.69 $0.65000 5.03%
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP) $81.09 $1.26000 6.22%
Inergy (NRGY) $18.54 $0.29000 6.26%
El Paso Pipeline Partners (EPB) $36.49 $0.58000 6.36%
Williams Partners (WPZ) $50.47 $0.80750 6.40%
Targa Resources Partners (NGLS) $36.60 $0.66250 7.24%
Regency Energy Partners (RGP) $22.31 $0.46000 8.25%
Boardwalk Pipeline Partners (BWP) $25.68 $0.53250 8.29%
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) $42.82 $0.89375 8.35%
Buckeye Partners (BPL) $49.13 $1.03750 8.45%
Suburban Propane Partners (SPH) $39.20 $0.85250 8.70%

Table 6

Given my concerns regarding the recent acquisition, the low coverage ratio, the high cost of the IDRs and the still significant exposure to commodity prices I am not purchasing NGLS at these levels.

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