An 8.4% Yielder With a Steady Dividend Safety Rating
Last May, I looked at MPLX (NYSE: MPLX), an oil and gas refining master limited partnership (MLP) formed by Marathon Petroleum (NYSE: MPC).
At the time, it received a “B” rating for dividend safety. The only concern was that cash available for distribution (CAD), the measure of cash flow that we use for MLPs, was expected to dip to $4.1 billion from $4.3 billion the prior year.
It turns out that MPLX actually grew cash flow in 2021 to $4.8 billion, the highest it’s been in years. Keeping costs low was a key part of driving the number higher.
This year, however, cash available for distribution is forecast to dip sharply, all the way to $3.2 billion. That’s a substantial 34% haircut from last year’s figure. Though, keep in mind that Wall Street analysts underestimated MPLX’s 2021 cash flow by $660 million in May.
Regardless, we’ll assume the analysts will at least get the direction of cash flow correct this time and that the number will be lower than 2021’s total.
Even if they’re right and cash flow falls all the way down to $3.2 billion, MPLX will still be able to pay the projected $2.9 billion in distributions.
MPLX has an impressive distribution history, having raised the distribution every year since 2013.
Once 2022 is over, if the distribution is in fact higher than 2021’s, that will make it 10 years in a row that MPLX has raised the distribution. MPLX will be eligible for an upgrade, even if cash flow is lower. When a company has boosted the dividend for 10 years straight, it is given a bonus point by Safety Net because it has demonstrated that the dividend is important to it and that it will strive to protect it.
The current $0.705 quarterly distribution generates an 8.4% yield.
Investors should keep an eye on the company’s cash flow. If it falls this year as projected and then continues to decline, management may face some hard decisions down the road. But for the next 12 months, the distribution should be safe.
Dividend Safety Rating: B
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