Friday, May 30, 2014

Looking with Caution at the Rising Power of Master Limited Parntership in the U.S. Energy Sector

On the face of it, Master Limited Partnerships in the US are a dream investment. To increase capital to finance upstream and midstream energy sectors the United States Congress enacted the Master Limited Partnership (MLP) legislation in the 1980s. Structured much like a corporation, MLP’s offer excellent tax breaks as long as profits are not retained at the end of the year but instead distributed to investors. MLP’s have been popular investment vehicles in the oil and gas industry, with a number of midstream players, in particular, structured this way. However, MLP’s have their risks. The MLP structure does not encourage infrastructure spending, which can lead to safety issues (poorly maintained pipelines, for example). MLP’s are not subject to GAAP rules, either, so there is little to prevent these entities from exaggerating earnings and engaging in other morally questionable accounting practices. In my May 2, 2014 article in the European Energy Review, I closely examine the advantages and potential pitfalls of the rising profile of MLPs in the U.S. energy sector. Here is a link to the article.