Anyone trying to keep track of where the markets might be heading, could be forgiven for displaying signs of dizziness.
The markets are being violently pulled in opposite directions lately, making it difficult to form a coherent investing strategy. It is in time like this that some expert advice might provide a clearer picture. Hardly any on the Street come more highly regarded than billionaire David Tepper.
The co-founder of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, Tepper is known for his brash and confident style, traits which could come in handy in today’s confused climate. Tepper made his fortune – and built his hedge fund – by investing in distressed assets and profiting mightily when markets reversed later on. And with $14 billion worth of assets under Appaloosa’s management, it’s natural for Wall Street to take notice when Tepper has something to say.
“Basically, I think rates have temporarily made the most of the move and should be more stable in the next few months, which makes it safer to be in stocks for now,” Tepper noted.
The billionaire believes the rising rates should settle and points out that with the Senate’s approval of the coronavirus fiscal stimulus package, it is currently “very difficult to be bearish.”
With this in mind, we’ve opened up the TipRanks database to get the scoop on two of Tepper’s recent new positions. These are Strong Buy stocks – and perhaps more interestingly, both are strong dividend payers, with annual yields exceeding 7%. We can turn to the Wall Street analysts to find out what else might have brought these stocks to Tepper’s attention.
MPLX LP (MPLX)
We’ll start with a long-established name in the energy sector. Marathon Petroleum, one of the giants of Big Oil, operates across the US, in the Rocky Mountains, the Midwest, and along the Gulf Coast, moving oil and natural gas products from the wells to the storage and distribution facilities.
MPLX has benefited from the general economic reopening in the second half of 2020, with the stock gaining as more people returned to work and demand for fuel increased. Overall, shares are up 98% in the last 12 months.
At the top line, revenues have rebounded from a dip in 2Q20, gaining 8.5% to reach $2.17 billion by Q4. Earnings, which turned sharply negative in 1Q20, rose steadily through the rest of the year, and came in at 64 cents per share in Q4.
But perhaps the most important metric, for investors, was MPLX’s net cash position – for the full year 2020, the company generated $4.5 billion in cash, and returned over $3 billion of that to shareholders. In its most recent dividend declaration, the company announced a 68.75 cent payment per common share, or $2.75 annualized. This gives a yield of 10.5%, far above the average yield.
And David Tepper, in the last quarter, bought heavily into MPLX, picking up more than 3.45 million shares of the stock. At current prices, these shares are now worth $89.77 million. As noted, this is a new position for Tepper, and it is a substantial one.
Covering this stock for RBC Capital, 5-star analyst TJ Schultz believes the company’s strong balance sheet justifies a positive sentiment.
“[We] think MPLX is well positioned to continue steady cash flow and distributions into 2021+. Management reinforced MPC’s commitment to MPLX contract renewals. Some modest price slippage on near-term barge renewables, but the chunkier contracts were either set more recently (longer runway) or are already tied to FERC oil dynamics. We like MPLX’s improving FCF profile and solid balance sheet, which we think gives management more options for returning value through unit buybacks over the next year,” Schultz wrote.
To this end, Schultz gives MPLX a $29 price target, implying a 12% upside, to go along with his Outperform (i.e. Buy) rating. (To watch Schultz’s track record, click here)
MPLX’s strong share appreciation has pushed the stock price close to the average price target. Shares are selling for $25.92 now, with an average target of $27.67 suggesting room for ~7% further growth. The stock holds a Strong Buy consensus rating, based on 5 Buys and 1 Hold given over the past 3 months. (See MPLX stock analysis on TipRanks)
Enterprise Products Partners (EPD)
Sticking with the energy sector, we’ll look at another midstream company that caught Tepper’s attention. Enterprise Products Partners, with a $50 billion market cap, is a major player in the midstream segment, and operates a network of assets including more than 50,000 pipeline miles, storage facilities for 160 million barrels of oil and 14 billion cubic feet of natural gas, and shipping terminals on the Gulf Coast in Texas.
The story here is similar to that for MPLX. Enterprise was hurt by the lockdowns put in place to combat the COVID pandemic, but in the last six months has seen a rebound in share value and revenues. Shares are up 40% in that time, while revenues in Q4 broke back above $7 billion.
Overall, Enterprise’s 2020 performance showed declines from 2019 – but one important metric showed a gain. Of the company’s total cash flow, $5.9 billion, $2.7 billion was free cash flow (FCF), or cash available for distribution. This was up 8% year-over-year, and allowed the company to keep up its regular dividend payment – and even to raise the payment in the most recent declaration, from 44 cents per common share to 45 cents. With a $1.80 annualized payout per share, this gives a robust yield of 7.7%.
Tepper’s new position in EPD is substantial. The hedge fund leader bought up 1.09 million shares of the stock for his first position, a buy that is now worth $25.23 million.
Analyst Matt O’Brien, of JPMorgan, sides with the bulls, reiterating a Buy rating and $28 price target. This target conveys his confidence in EPD’s ability to climb 20% from current levels. (To watch O’Brien’s track record, click here)
“With capex needs slowing, EPD expects to reach positive discretionary free cash flow in 2H21, enabling fully funding capex, growing cash distributions, and opportunistic buybacks… Overall, we continue to believe EPD offers the optimal mix of offense and defense, with attractive embedded operating leverage, notable barriers to entry, low leverage, and best-in-class financial flexibility,” O’Brien commented.
Wall Street’s analysts can be a contentious lot – but when they agree on a stock, it’s a positive sign for investors to take note. That’s the case here, as all of the recent reviews on EPD are Buys, making the consensus rating a unanimous Strong Buy. The analysts have given an average price target of $27, which indicates ~15% upside from the current share price of $23.38. (See EPD stock analysis on TipRanks)
To find good ideas for dividend stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.