Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD) has been an excellent investment over its 20-year history. Not only has the MLP given its investors a raise in each year of its existence but it has significantly beaten the market, which is no surprise since dividend growth stocks have historically outperformed. Overall, the midstream company has produced a total return of more than 1,780% over its two decades as a public company, smashing the S&P 500's 240% total return over that time frame.
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While past success is no guarantee of positive results in the future, Enterprise Products Partners is well-positioned to continue giving its investors raises in the years to come. That increases the probability that it can keep up its market-beating ways.
An Income-Growth Machine
Enterprise Products Partners' most recent distribution increase was 2.4% above the level it paid last year. While it might not be the fastest-growing dividend stock around, it's been one of the most consistent, as it's now boosted its payout in each of the last 58 consecutive quarters (or 14 1/2 years) and for the past 20 years overall.
The company has delivered this consistent growth by successfully executing its expansion initiatives over the years while maintaining a top-tier financial profile. The MLP has invested $38 billion on organic growth projects, as well as another $26 billion on mergers and acquisitions, to build one of the largest midstream companies in the country. Its focus, however, hasn't been on growing the size of the company but building an integrated system that serves the needs of America's steadily expanding energy sector.
The MLP has been careful to make growth-focused investments that can generate high returns on capital without stretching its balance sheet. Because of that, it boasts one of the highest credit ratings in the sector. Meanwhile, it also has maintained a large margin of safety on its distribution by keeping its payout level lower than peers. That has not only provided it with incremental excess cash to help finance its expansion initiatives, but a cushion during tough times, which are quite frequent in the energy sector due to the wild swings of commodity prices.
Plenty Of Fuel To Continue Growing
Enterprise Products Partners finished about $2.1 billion of growth projects last year, as well as making a small $200 million acquisition. Those investments will provide the company with the fuel needed to continue increasing its payout each quarter this year. Meanwhile, the MLP has another $6 billion of expansion projects under construction that should provide it with the growing cash-flow stream needed to keep expanding its distribution through at least 2020.
The midstream giant has several potential opportunities on the horizon to drive growth in the decade ahead. It's already considering expanding some of its existing pipelines to meet future demand growth, as well as building an offshore oil port to increase the country's export capacity. With the energy industry needing to invest more than $800 billion in constructing new midstream infrastructure through 2035, Enterprise Products Partners should have plenty of opportunities to continue expanding its midstream footprint. Those future projects should provide the company with the growing cash-flow stream needed so that it can keep increasing its distribution to investors.
A Top-Notch Income Growth Stock For The Long Haul
Enterprise Products Partners has steadily grown its cash flow and its dividend to investors over its 20-year history by taking a conservative approach to expanding its operations. Because of that, it has been able to consistently grow without negatively impacting its balance sheet, which has been what has halted many dividend growth streaks in the past. As a result, the company is well-positioned to continue expanding both its asset base and dividend in the years to come, making it an excellent income growth stock to buy and hold.
This article originally appeared on The Motley Fool.