Kinder Morgan Inc. Earnings: Solid, but Certainly Unspectacular

Kinder Morgan Inc. reported second-quarter results after the closing bell on Wednesday. The energy infrastructure giant again delivered a solid quarter, as its primarily fee-based assets generated more than enough cash flow to cover the company's dividend. Cash flow was actually strong enough that the company boosted its quarterly dividend by a penny to $0.49 per share. While the company did face some stiff headwinds in the quarter, it remains on pace to meet its future growth targets.

A look at the numbersKinder Morgan reported distributable cash flow of $1.095 billion for the quarter, or $0.50 per share. While that was well ahead of last year's results, that's mainly because Kinder Morgan consolidated its MLPs, pushing its current quarter's earnings much higher.

One number that was slightly concerning was that the company produced only $20 million in excess cash flow, or $0.01 per share, during the quarter. That was much weaker than last quarter's $206 million in excess cash flow, and below the projected trend of approximately $100 million in excess cash flow per quarter for the final three quarters of the year. That said, the company is still well within its own guidance range, which is why Kinder Morgan reiterated its plan to pay $2 per share in dividends this year while also growing its payout by 10% annually off that rate through 2020.

All that to say, Kinder Morgan's results were about what was to be expected. The best way to understand this is to look at an apples-to-apples comparison of its consolidated segment results, which I've detailed in the following chart:

Source: Kinder Morgan Inc earnings release. Chart by author.

The biggest earnings contributor is Kinder Morgan's Natural Gas Pipelines segment, which grew its earnings by 1% over last year's second quarter. Driving that performance was the overall strength of the business, as natural gas transport volumes were up 3% year over year. Further, the company is enjoying strong initial contributions of its recent Hiland acquisition. Given that segment's solid results so far this year, it's on pace to exceed its full-year budgeted growth of 1%.

Also driving strong performance was the company's Products Pipelines and Terminals segments, with year-over-year earnings up 32% and 19%, respectively. The Products Pipelines segment was driven by a 4% increase in total refined product volumes over last year's second quarter, and as a result of its robust first half the segment is expected to drive better than expected results for the full year. The Terminals segment was also strong, fueled by organic growth as several new projects were placed into service over the past year. However, that segment's earnings growth is now projected to be below budget for the full year. Meanwhile, both the Carbon Dioxide and Canada segments continue to be laggards, being pulled down by weak oil prices and the weak Canadian dollar, respectively. Both are on pace to perform under the company's projected 2015 budget.

A look at the outlookWhile Kinder Morgan is experiencing some headwinds in its business, the company isn't changing its full-year outlook, nor its long-term growth plans. In fact, those long-term plans firmed up in the quarter as the company increased its project backlog by $3.7 billion to a total of $22 billion. It's this backlog that will drive future dividend growth as these investments eventually go into service.

There were actually several moving parts in the backlog, as the company completed $700 million in projects, pulled out $600 million in projects, and added $5 billion in new projects. The $600 million subtraction isn't a surprise, as the company will pull from its Carbon Dioxide segment until oil prices improve. However, the real surprise here is the major new additions to the pipeline, which included $3.3 billion for the market path of the company's controversial Northeast Energy Direct project. It's a major project to bring natural gas from the prolific Marcellus and Utica shale plays to customers in New England, and it has the potential to grow into a $6.5 billion project if both the market and supply path segments are built at full capacity. That Kinder Morgan is now confident enough to put some of this project into its backlog bodes well for its ability to deliver on its planned long-term dividend growth goals.

Investor takeawayKinder Morgan's second-quarter results weren't stellar by any means as its distributable cash flow was a bit weak. However, the company still remains on pace to hit both its full-year and long-term targets. Further, there's now a bit more clarity on where that future growth will come from, as the company's backlog ballooned during the quarter.

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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. The Motley Fool recommends Kinder Morgan. The Motley Fool 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.

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