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M&A Heating Up in the MLP Sector

The announcement Saturday by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE: KMP) that it would acquire El Paso Corp. (NYSE: EP) is shaking up the pipeline picture.

The $38 billion deal involves cash, stock, and warrants (with KMP also absorbing about $17 billion in EP debt).

It will create the largest pipeline holding in the United States, the fourth-largest company in the country, and by far the largest midstream service company.

It is this last factor that will have the biggest impact - for two reasons.

First, the merger puts renewed focus on other similar actions among midst reams. These are the companies that connect producing fields (upstream) with refineries, distribution, and retail sales (downstream). Midstream services include gathering, initial processing, feeder pipelines, transport (certainly by larger intrastate and interstate pipelines, but also by tanker and barge), terminals, and storage.

Storage is especially important in this era of surplus production in natural gas, and excess crude oil volume sitting in Cushing, OK (where the daily West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark price is determined for NYMEX trade).

You see, m idstream companies that control storage (which usually includes a large percentage of available pipeline capacity, as well as underground stockpiling sites) generate revenue whether product is moving or staying put.

However, another element in this transaction may be even more important and, in the process, may telegraph where we should expect to see the sector move with further mergers and acquisitions (M&A) action.

What M&A Means for the MLP Sector

This newly announced merger brings together two Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs).

MLPs are designed to move all profits to the partners, avoiding corporate taxes altogether. They act the same way an "S" corporation does for individual taxpayers. When an MLP decides to spin off an equity issue, the portion of profits reflected by the stock must be passed through to the shareowners.

That means an MLP equity issue provides genuine potential for both price appreciation and a dividend well above market averages.

Among the El Paso assets included in the merger is El Paso Pipeline Partners LP (NYSE: EPB), which primarily controls interstate regulated pipelines (and provides a nice complement to KMP assets).

All told, the new $94 billion giant will control more than 80,000 miles of pipeline. Typically, the initial announcement results in the acquiring company's share price declining and the acquired company's share price moving up.

That's why traders' reactions to this mega-announcement were most unusual. In this case, both were up strongly early this week.

The KMP-EP announcement will be followed by others as the sector continues to consolidate.

That will only create more opportunities for the individual investor.

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