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3 High Yielders Investing in Growth: MLPs

Atlas Pipeline Partners (APL) yield: 6%

Atlas operates five gas-processing plants and 8,600 miles of pipeline in the Mid-Continent region (Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas). The company also holds a 20% stake in a West Texas liquid natural gas (LNG) pipeline majority-owned by Chevron (CVX).

Atlas facilities are currently operating at maximum throughput, which is the reason the company is spending more than $600 million to double production capacity. Atlas is expanding its western Oklahoma gas-gathering system, upgrading a west Texas processing facility (the second expansion of this facility in 18 months) and greatly increasing transportation capacity of its Velma system that serves Woodford Shale gas fields.

The great thing is that Atlas is funding these upgrades without resorting to dilutive equity offerings. The company paid down nearly $700 million of debt in 2011 using proceeds from an asset sale and has ample borrowing capacity, with debt now totaling just one-third of equity.

The balance sheet is also incredibly solid. During the first nine months of 2011, Atlas generated EBITDA of $131.8 million. The expansion projects, once completed, are expected to add another $150 million to annual EBITDA. In the same period, Atlas boosted distributable cash flow by 45%, to $93.9 million, compared with a year earlier, and hiked distributions 15% in the third quarter. This marked two consecutive quarters of double-digit distribution growth and more than 50% year-to-date growth in distribution.

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