By Aristofanis Papadatos for Sure Dividend
Inflation has soared to a 40-year high this year due to the immense fiscal stimulus packages offered by the government in response to the pandemic. Consequently, income-oriented investors are struggling to protect their portfolios from losing real value.
High-dividend stocks are great candidates for income-oriented investors under the current circumstances, though investors should perform their due diligence to make sure that the dividends of these stocks are safe.
In this article, we will discuss the prospects of three high-yield stocks that benefit from high oil and gas prices, namely BP (BP), Enbridge (ENB) and ONEOK (OKE).
BP is one of the largest oil and gas corporations in the world, with a market capitalization of $97 billion. It operates in two segments: upstream and downstream (mostly refining).
BP has accumulated an excessive debt load, mostly due to its catastrophic accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, which has cost the company approximately $70 billion so far. As this amount is 72% of the market capitalization of the stock, it is easy to understand its impact on the company. The high debt load of BP has also resulted from the extremely generous dividends of BP, which has maintained its shareholder-friendly character even under the most adverse business conditions.
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Fortunately, BP is thriving right now. The price of oil has rallied to a 13-year high this year thanks to the recovery of global demand from the pandemic and the sanctions of western countries on Russia for its invasion in Ukraine. As Russia produces 10% of global oil output, the oil market has become extremely tight.
A similar situation is evident in the natural gas market. European gas prices have skyrocketed to all-time highs in recent months due to tight supply from Russia, which provides approximately 40% of natural gas consumed in Europe. In addition, Europe has begun to import LNG cargos from the U.S. aggressively in an effort to shift away from Russia and thus the U.S. natural gas market has become extremely tight. As a result, the U.S. natural gas price has surged to a 13-year high.
The above conditions are ideal for BP, which is highly leveraged to the prices of oil and gas, especially given its high debt load. Thanks to its excessive profits in the current environment, BP has been reducing its debt load at a fast pace in recent quarters and thus it has added another growth driver, namely lower interest expense.
In the most recent quarter, BP more than doubled its earnings per share, from $0.78 in last year’s quarter to $1.92, and exceeded the analysts’ consensus by an impressive $0.55 (40%). The earnings per share of BP were the highest of the company in the last decade. Moreover, as the sanctions are not likely to be removed anytime soon, BP is expected to post 10-year high earnings this year.
BP cut its dividend by 50% in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic on its business but it is still offering an attractive 4.4% dividend yield. The company has a payout ratio of only 27%, which provides a wide margin of safety to the dividend.
BP raised its dividend by 4% last year and stated that it can continue raising its dividend by 4% per year until 2025 as long as the price of oil remains above or around $60. BP also expects to be able to repurchase approximately $1.0 billion of shares per quarter. As this buyback rate corresponds to a 4% annual reduction of the share count, it provides a meaningful boost to the bottom line.
Overall, as long as oil prices remain above $60, BP will continue offering excessive shareholder distributions, namely a 4.4% dividend that will grow by 4% per year, and meaningful share repurchases. On the other hand, investors should be aware that the stock of BP is likely to come under pressure whenever the war in Ukraine comes to an end.
Enbridge is a midstream oil and gas company, which is headquartered in Canada and operates in four segments: Liquids Pipelines, Gas Transmission, Gas Distribution and Green Power. These segments generate 53%, 29%, 13% and 5%, respectively, of the total EBITDA of the company.
Enbridge is an immense midstream company. Through its vast pipeline networks, the company transports approximately 25% of North America’s crude oil and 20% of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. It is also the largest distributor of natural gas in the U.S. by annual volumes.
Most companies in the energy sector are highly cyclical due to the wild swings of the prices of oil and gas. This is not the case for Enbridge, which has one of the most resilient business models in the sector. Enbridge has a toll-like, fee-based model, which involves charging fees to customers for the products they transport through the pipeline networks of Enbridge. The contracts have minimum-volume requirements and hence Enbridge enjoys reliable cash flows even during downturns, when its customers transport lower volumes than usual.
Enbridge greatly benefits from the aforementioned favorable prices of oil and gas. The company expects to grow its distributable cash flow per share by about 8% this year, from $3.91 to a new all-time high of $4.21. On the other hand, due to its defensive business model, Enbridge benefits less than most oil companies during boom times. Overall, Enbridge is one of the most resilient energy companies during downturns but it has less upside than most of its peers during boom times.
Enbridge has grown its dividend (in CAD) for 27 consecutive years, at a 10% average annual rate. It is also offering an attractive 6.3% dividend yield. The company has a healthy payout ratio of 64% and is likely to continue growing its distributable cash flow thanks to a series of growth projects, which are related to the expansion of its network. Therefore, the stock is offering an above-average 6.3% dividend, which is likely to keep rising for many more years.
ONEOK engages in the gathering and processing of natural gas, it provides services in the business of natural gas liquids (NGLs) and owns natural gas pipelines (interstate and intrastate).
ONEOK has a 40,000-mile network of NGLs and natural gas pipelines and provides midstream services to producers, processors and customers. Its assets are ideally positioned in the major shale basins, Permian and Bakken. More than 10% of the total U.S. natural gas production goes through the network of ONEOK.
ONEOK has a volatile performance record but it has greatly improved its performance in the last four years thanks to the completion of a series of growth projects, such as pipelines and fractionation services in the Permian Basin, and the significant contribution of these projects to the cash flows of the company.
ONEOK is currently offering a 6.1% dividend yield. The company had a high payout ratio in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic on its business but it is on track to post record distributable cash flow per share this year thanks to the favorable commodity prices and the recovery of the U.S. gas production. As a result, ONEOK currently covers its dividend with a wide margin of safety, with a healthy payout ratio of 68%.
It is also worth noting that a significant portion of the cash flows of ONEOK are fee-based or hedged. This means that ONEOK is more defensive during downturns than most energy companies. On the other hand, the business model of ONEOK is less resilient than the model of Enbridge.
The energy sector is by far the best-performing sector of the stock market this year, mostly thanks to the 13-year high prices of oil and gas, which have resulted from the sanctions of western countries on Russia. Despite the breathtaking rally of the energy sector, there are still energy stocks that offer markedly high dividend yields. The above three stocks offer exceptionally high yields with a wide margin of safety. Nevertheless, investors should be aware of the material downside risk of the entire energy sector whenever its next downcycle begins.