Kinder Morgan (KMI) continues to get hammered today, trading under $20 a share. After my recommendation yesterday, I've taken some heat, but this continued drop in prices is hardly unexpected. There is both a financial and a psychological point of view to understand here -- KMI is a very special stock inside the midstream subsector of energy.
So, what's the real story of Kinder Morgan?
Let's look at the psychological aspects that continue to drive the stock lower, making it the great opportunity that I recommended yesterday.
The vast majority of Kinder stockholders are income investors, in some ways the most loyal, but in others the most skittish. What is always of primary importance to income investors is the dividend, which Kinder has slavishly committed to pay and will continue to grow, if you trust the most recent quarterly call. (Read Real Money's report from Carleton English on the prospects for KMI's dividend and Bruce Kamich's views on negative sentiment.)
But the downside of income investors is they become more panicky than others when that dividend is put even slightly in doubt. Kinder did not raise dividend growth projections as it has done every other year, although still projecting a 6% increase in 2016.
Further, recent buys by KMI of Harold Hamm's percentage of Continental's (CLR) Bakken pipelines and recently of NGPL's pipes were viewed as unnecessarily putting more debt pressure on its dividend. This latest buy was accompanied by a downgrade watch by Moody's, not yet classifying KMI debt as falling into junk territory but putting it on watch -- further inciting anxiety from income investors.
The added debt of NGPL of $3.2 billion is not significant to the over $41 billion of debt KMI currently services. Did Moody's overreact here?
Add this to yearly tax-loss selling and a long list of shills who have been writing negatively about KMI since shares were trading in the $40s, and boom -- you've got a bit of a panic going on. As Jim Cramer put it, a "freefall."
Now, let's look fundamentally.
KMI has continued to increase its distributable cash flow throughout 2015, up 22% year over year, despite the headwinds of a CO2 business that has been entirely commodity-priced and horrible in the last year. I don't see any problems in continuing to support the dividend for at least the next two years, even without an increase in oil and natural gas prices (which I also expect).
And then, there's CEO Rich Kinder. I wasn't hot on the CLR and NGPL buys, to be sure -- but Rich Kinder has been singularly right on so many things in his career, I hesitate to ever doubt what he's doing. He exited Enron at just the right time, starting Kinder Morgan and virtually inventing the master limited partnership model. He also exited the MLP model at precisely the right time, giving him just the flexibility to acquire new infrastructure as a C-corp. (and change the dividend structure, should he choose to). He doesn't take a salary, relying upon dividends for his payment, as so many of his shareholders do. He's one of the few CEOs who's in the trenches with his investors. He's built KMI into one of the three largest pipeline companies in the U.S. -- one this country literally depends upon. It's not going anywhere.
I refused to recommend anyone in the pipeline business throughout 2015 -- but by not owning KMI at $40 or $35 or even $30 has given me the gunpowder to start accumulating a position on the lone pipeline company I think has caught an extremely oversold panic-selling opportunity. And a CEO I think is the best in the business.
I bought some KMI at $21, and if the panic continues, will buy more at $18. Bring it on.