Kinder Morgan Earnings: Oil Prices Eat Into Profits

By Markets Fool.com

Continue Reading Below

Source: Kinder Morgan.

Kinder Morgan reported fourth-quarter results after the closing bell today. The energy infrastructure company had a busy quarter, to say the least, as it completed its consolidation merger with its former MLP affiliates. That merger, combined with turmoil in the oil market, created quite a lot to digest in the company's fourth-quarter report. Here are the highlights that matter most to investors.

A look at the numbers that matter
On the surface it would appear that Kinder Morgan suffered a bad quarter. The company's earnings came in at just $0.08 per share, which missed estimates by $0.26 per share. Meanwhile, revenue of $3.95 billion came in about $350 million light. However, neither of those numbers really matter much to Kinder Morgan, as it's focused on distributable cash flow, which came in at $1.278 billion, or $0.60 per share. That's well above the $0.46 per share the company reported in the fourth quarter of last year and was more than enough to cover the company's dividend, which it actually boosted by 10% to $0.45 per share.

Drilling down a bit deeper
Longtime Kinder Morgan investors know that until last quarter the company had basically been a holding company that owned interests in its MLP affiliates. However, by completing its consolidation merger, the company owns all of those assets outright, so its business is now broken into the five business segments that are reflective of the operations of the former MLPs. Here's a look at how each segment performed in the quarter versus the same period in 2013:

Continue Reading Below

Source: Chart by author. Data from Kinder Morgan's press release.

As we see on that chart, all but two of Kinder Morgan's now consolidated segments enjoyed strong year-over-year growth. The company's Natural Gas Pipeline segment continues to do the heavy lifting, as segment earnings were up 5% from last year's third quarter. Kinder Morgan enjoyed strong performance across most of its natural gas pipeline portfolio and expects continued strength in 2015. Meanwhile, the company also enjoyed robust growth in its Products Pipelines and Terminals segments, as segment earnings were up 11% and 25%, respectively. These gains were the results of both volume increases and acquisitions.

The two laggards this quarter were its Carbon Dioxide business and its Canadian operations. Lower oil prices were the culprit that dragged down the performance of the Carbon Dioxide segment, as oil production was strong and carbon dioxide production set a new record. That said, this segment is expected to be a drag on earnings in 2015 if oil prices don't improve. Finally, the company's Canadian operations were affected by an unfavorable foreign exchange rate.

Looking ahead
Despite the weak oil market, Kinder Morgan expects 2015 to be a solid year. It reiterated its plan to declare $2 in dividends this year, as it still expects to end the year with substantial excess cash flow despite weaker-than-expected oil prices so far this year.

One of the reasons the company expects to meet its target is that it can use acquisitions to boost results. The company already has its first deal lined up, as it announced that it's acquiring a premier midstream position in the Bakken Shale play for $3 billion. The deal will be moderately accretive to cash available to pay dividends over the next two years before increasing to $0.06-$0.07 per share starting in 2017.

The final piece of important news is that the company announced that its COO, Steve Kean, will be promoted to CEO on June 1. It's a long-anticipated move, which should lead to a seamless transition. Founder, current CEO, and largest shareholder Richard Kinder will become the company's executive chairman and remain active in major decisions.

Kinder Morgan reported another solid quarter thanks to the continued strength of its natural gas pipeline segment. While its carbon dioxide business is going to be a drag this year, the company's oil production is fairly well hedged, which should mute some of the impact of low oil prices. Furthermore, the company has plenty of levers to pull to maintain its growth trajectory as it can use acquisitions to further support its projected dividend growth.

The article Kinder Morgan Earnings: Oil Prices Eat Into Profits originally appeared on Fool.com.

Matt DiLallo has the following options: short January 2016 $32.5 puts on Kinder Morgan and long January 2016 $32.5 calls on Kinder Morgan, which means he won't be enjoying the dividend increase. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Kinder Morgan. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.