MLPs Reduce Risk to Energy Sector

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By Ian Wyatt

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Income investors are frequently looking for high-yield investments in the energy sector, and the master limited partnership (MLP) is one of my favorite structures to help investors meet that goal.

A MLP, which has a common organizational structure for oil and natural gas producers, offers investors a way to reap the benefits of higher energy prices, but without a lot of risk. Perhaps the best reason to consider a master limited partnership is the cash distributions, which are similar to stock dividends. But often the yield is better than what a stock can offer.

A relatively new name in the MLP crowd is Crestwood Midstream Partners L.P. ( CMLP). The stock currently yields 5.7 percent. The company is a Houston-based partnership that used to be known as Quicksilver Gas Services.

The original company began operations in 2004 and went public in August 2007. In October 2010, Crestwood Holdings, a partnership between private equity firm First Reserve Corporation and industry veterans led by CEO Robert G. Phillip, paid $701 million to take control of Quicksilver Gas Services. It subsequently changed the name to the current form.

Crestwood Midstream Partners is a natural gas gatherer and processor. The company handles the "midstream" part of the natural gas value chain, meaning its partners get the natural gas out of the ground and Crestwood takes care of the processing, storage, marketing and transportation functions.

Crestwood is paid a fee to move the natural gas along. While natural gas prices have hovered around $4 per thousand cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange (despite the extremely cold winter that much of the country has been experiencing), midstream operators such as Crestwood have fees that are less tethered to the commodity price itself.

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