People are chasing the yields for a reason...there are few options right now for return of any decent size. Even if they are over valued, most investors are not looking to sell a point or two of gain in the underlying units...they are looking to hold for long term income. That is a difference in the MLP vs a common stock equity.
High income ETF's are having (or are continuing) a good run as well. Muni's, Corporates, Preferred's and Ute's are all going up as mom and dad are looking to replace matured CD's and get out of MMF's that have almost zero yields.
And with commodity prices rising, I don't see MLP's as being richly overvalued.
So, my 2 cents...few sellers, decent returns, few other or better options...the run may continue a while longer.
Traditional valuation for these is a spread to Long Term treasuries and yields are pushing up dramatically. About 300 basis points spread is the historical benchmark and we are trading narrower on many. Keep in mind, these are not risk free securities and the more units they sell, the more risk there is. They are selling units because they are reducing leverage but that puts more operation risk in the unit price. You are focusing on the steep yield curve with the front end yielding nothing, that is short term OK but when the music stops look out.
You said 300bps over the TBill rate is a historical range and I heartily agree. Since the 10yr TBill is selling at 3.82% the best investment grade MLPs should yield in the area of 6.75 to 7%. That is exactly where EPD is selling so it is fairly valued using interest rates as an analysis.
The drop due to the secondary is a continuing opportunity as it raises the yield to closer to 7%.
What many investors to not understand is the MLPs must py out most of the DCF to unitholders. This requires them to issue units and debt (about a 50/50 mix) to construct or buy new assets. If the new assets yield more than the 7% distribution rate or the approximate 7% bond rate the issuance of new debt and equity is NOT dilutive and if fact is the only way for a MLP to expand significantly. Since most of EPDs assets pay them in the 15% area the money used properly will be accretive and provide for additional distribution increases in the future.
Going forward one simply needs to look at the distribution increases going forward that should be in the .01 to .0125 area for the next 4 quarters given the accretive nature of the Teppco merger and you get a Q410 distribution of about $2.40 in round numbers. Given a 6.75 to 7% yield this gives a unit price in the $34 to $6 range.
If interest rates go up another 1% on the 10 year TBill and the historical correlation of .65 holds EPD will need to yield about 7.25 - 7.50%. This suggests a price of $32 to $34 using strictly a math equation.
Personally I feel that EPD will increase theri distribution in the .0125 to .015 area and exit 2010 with a $2.45 distribution rate. Would guess this supports the current unit price plus a couple of $$.
A flattening of the yield curve is not a big problem unless it inverts. The good news is MLPs are much more of a mainstream investment than even 2 or 3 years ago and the buying is from mostly retail customers. no indication of hedge funds screwing things up.
A question, why do you say the more units creates more risk? Seems to people I talked to that a higher debt ratio makes for more leverage and that is more risk. More equity lowers the leverage and thus the risk ratio. This comment is from RBC Dain - not me.