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The website explains how distributable cash flow (DCF) is defined and why it is important to analyze it and derive a sustainable measure of DCF. Results reported by master limited partnerships (MLPs) are analyzed. comparisons of reported DCF to sustainable DCF are generated, and various coverage ratios and reports analyzing performance are generated. Simplified sources and uses of funds statements are presented to focus readers' attention on key cash flow items. The website also features general articles about MLPs and about other topics of interest to yield-focused investors.



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PAA: A Closer Look at Plains All American Pipeline’s Distributable Cash Flow as of 2Q 2012

Author: Ron Hiram

Published: August 16, 2012

On August 6, 2012, Plains All American Pipeline L.P. (PAA) reported results of operations for 2Q 2012. Revenues, operating income, net income and earnings before interest, depreciation & amortization and income tax expenses (EBITDA) were as follows:

Operating income462298776583
Net income378225609408
Adjusted EBITDA522366995714
Weighted average units outstanding (million)163150161147


Table 1: Figures in $ Millions

Strong performance was exhibited by all segments, particularly Supply & Logistics:

Transportation segment profit169128332265
Facilities segment profit11486204164
Supply & Logistics segment profit274151402285
Total segment profit557365938714
Depreciation and amortization-86-63-146-126
Interest expense-75-62-140-128
Other income/(expense), net022-20
Income tax benefit/(expense)-10-9-30-22
Net income386233624418
Less: Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests-8-8-15-10
Net income attributable to PAA378225609408


Table 2: Figures in $ Millions

The extraordinary growth in Supply & Logistics segment profit is attributed by management in one part to two main factors.  One is the “…impact of higher volumes due to increased production related to the active development of crude oil and liquids-rich resource plays. The increase in volumes was primarily a result of increased drilling activities in the Bakken, Eagle Ford Shale, West Texas, Western Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle producing regions…” The other relates to “…increased margins related to production volumes exceeding existing pipeline takeaway capacity in certain regions and the associated logistics challenges”. Management cautions that the margins delivered in 2011 may not be repeated: “…a normalization of margins may occur as the logistics challenges are addressed” (quotes are from PAA’s 2011 10-K). Results for 1Q 2012 indicated a 3.8% decline in that segment’s contribution compared to the prior year period (see my report on PAA dated May 19, 2012). However, in 2Q12 Supply & Logistics’s profit contribution jumped 81% over the prior year period.

Given quarterly fluctuations in revenues, working capital needs and other items, it makes sense to review trailing 12 months (“TTM”) numbers rather than 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 Plains All American Pipeline L.P. (PAA) and provide a comparison to definitions used by other master limited partnerships. Using PAA’s definition, DCF for the TTM ending 6/30/12 was $1,385 million ($8.86 per unit), up from $897 million in 2010 ($6.29 per unit) in the TTM ending 6/30/11. 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 the MLP may differ from sustainable DCF are reviewed in an article titled Estimating Sustainable DCF-Why and How. Applying the method described there to PAA results through 6/30/12 generates the comparison outlined in Table 3 below:

12 months ending:6/30/20126/30/2011
Net cash provided by operating activities1,741948
Less: Maintenance capital expenditures-143-110
Less: Working capital (generated)-42-
Less: Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests-32-18
Sustainable DCF1,524820
Add: Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests3218
Working capital used-69
Risk management activities157
Proceeds from sale of assets / disposal of liabilities2248
DCF as reported1,384897


Table 3: Figures in $ Millions

Table 3 indicates net cash provided by operating activities in the TTM ending 6/30/12 increased by $793 million vs. the TTM ending 6/30/11. The three major components of the large increase are: (1) net income increased by $552 million; (2) there a $121 million inventory valuation adjustment in 2Q12 which reduced net income but involved no cash outflow; and (3) working capital was consumed in the TTM ending 6/30/11 but generated in the TTM ending 6/30/12, for a net difference of $111 million. These three items total $784. The balance is accounted for by other items. For the TTM ending 6/30/12 the difference between reported DCF and sustainable DCF is mostly in the “other” category and its largest component are non cash charges (such as the inventory valuation adjustment mentioned above) that management excludes from its definition of DCF. Also worth noting is that under PAA’s definition, reported DCF always excludes working capital changes, whether positive or negative.

Coverage ratios appear strong, as indicated in Table 4 below:

12 months ending:6/30/20126/30/2011
Distributions to unitholders ($ Millions)$872$729
Reported DCF per unit$8.86$6.29
Sustainable DCF per unit$9.75$5.75
Coverage ratio based on reported DCF1.591.23
Coverage ratio based on sustainable DCF1.751.12


Table 4

I find it helpful to look at a simplified cash flow statement by netting certain items (e.g., acquisitions against dispositions) and by separating cash generation from cash consumption. Here is what I see for PAA:

Simplified Sources and Uses of Funds

12 months ending:6/30/20126/30/2011
Capital expenditures ex maintenance, net of proceeds from sale of PP&E-720-417
Acquisitions, investments (net of sale proceeds)-2,173-604
Cash contributions/distributions related to affiliates & noncontrolling interests-48-25
Other CF from financing activities, net-32-5
Net cash from operations, less maintenance capex, less net income from non-controlling interests, less distributions725109
Debt incurred (repaid)1,310150
Partnership units issued921799
Other CF from investing activities, net51
Net change in cash-128


Table 5: Figures in $ Millions

Net cash from operations, less maintenance capital expenditures, less cash related to net income attributable to non-controlling partners exceeded distributions by $725 million in the TTM ending 6/30/12 and by $109 million in the TTM ending 6/30/11. Clearly PAA is not using cash raised from issuance of debt and equity to fund distributions. Of the $3.2 billion gross amount spent in the TTM ending 6/30/12 on growth capital projects and acquisitions (net of sale proceeds), only $2.2 billion was funded by debt and the issuance of additional partnership units; the balance was funded from internal cash flow. This is an impressive achievement, as is the ability of PAA to generate net income in excess of distributions per unit every quarter so far since 1Q11.

Capital growth projects are forecasted to total $1,175 million in 2012, of which $511 million was expended in 1H12. My hope is that PAA funds the balance with debt (which it can easily do without exceeding its announced credit profile parameters) and/or internally generated cash flow in order to minimize dilution to limited partners. The fact that the general partner gets 50% of any distributions in excess of $2.70 per unit per annum pushes up PAA’s cost of capital and constrains the ability to increase distributions to limited partners. In the TTM ending 6/30/12, distributions per unit increased by 7%.

As of 8/15/12, PAA’s current yield of ~4.91% is higher than the ~4.64% yield of Magellan Midstream Partners (MMP) and the ~4.82% yield of Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (EPD), but lower than all the other MLPs I cover. For example: ~5.95% for Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP), ~6.18% for Williams Partners (WPZ); ~6.24% for El Paso Pipeline Partners (EPB); ~6.37% for Targa Resources Partners (NGLS); ~7.87% for Buckeye Partner (BPL); ~7.83% for Boardwalk Pipeline Partners (BWP), and ~8.15% for Energy Transfer Partners (ETP).

PAA, EPD and MMP are all outstanding MLPs. The relatively low yields notwithstanding, their operational results have been excellent and have driven up unit prices, thus generating significant capital gains for the partners. They are a solid choice for more conservative MLP investors. The only reason I would favor EPD and MMP over PAA is the capital structure – no general partner incentive distributions for EPD and MMP vs. 50% in the case of PAA.

2 comments to PAA: A Closer Look at Plains All American Pipeline’s Distributable Cash Flow as of 2Q 2012

  • alan kornbluh

    Thanks for the thorough review of the finances of the companies you follow. Will you be increasing the number of companies you follow. I’m particularly interested in EEP, MWE and NSH. As I’m sure you are aware EEP has an ID as does NSH [25%] and MWE has none. The GP of EEP is ENB the Canadian pipeline company so it is doubtful the ID will end. NSH which is burdened by it’s refinery purchase has had no real growth for some years.

    Your reports have provided me with clarity and helped me to make decisions.

    Thanks Again.

    • Ron Hiram Ron Hiram

      For time constraint reasons, I do not currently plan to increase the number of companies I follow. But MWE will be a priority when and if I do.

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