Regarding the prospects for a takeover bid, I offer the following comments -
In cases where the underlying asset and cash flow generating capabilities of a company are not reflected in the market value, there are strategic and financial buyers of corporations.
However, NRP (and other similiarly structured MLP's) has Limited Partners instead of shareholders. Limited Partners have limited rights to change management, thus unsolicited takeover offers are rare (I am not aware of any).
On the other hand, the current credit crisis has severely reduced access to credit and capital which are essectial to NRP and other MLP's. I believe it is very likely that some MLP's will combine through transactions negotiated by the General Partners in order to improve access to the credit and capital markets. These transactions could include the large MLP's (KMP, EPD, ETP, etc) essentially acquiring smaller MLP's, and "mergers of equals" in order to gain size (better access to markets).
NRP is very well capitalized with no current needs to access markets. There is very little chance of NRP being acquired by a larger MLP. There may be a small chance of NRP being involved in a "merger of equals."
Disclosure - I have owned NRP for many years and added to my holdings in October 2008. I use the distributions for spending money. I belive NRP is currently substantially undervalued and the Unit price will increase as the economy, credit crisis and energy markets recover. This should occur during 2009 and 2010. Much better times are in our near future, even though a takeover bid is unlikely. I would be pleased to see a "merger of equals' involving NRP however.
In any event, I will continue to spend the quarterly distributions.
I think the biggest obstacles to any mergers of MLPs are the incentive distribution rights that the GP almost always owns. Considering that the GP gets a disproportionate share of distribution increases, the GPs would have to agree on how to share the IDRs. The financial markets might force some mergers, but I think the GPs would have to be pretty desperate first.
MLPs that don't have GPs or IDRs (such as CPNO, LINE) are more likely candidates for mergers or acuisitons, I think.
Tell you what. Can you name any MLPs that have been acquired? There's no reason to buy them (buy them outright, that is - they are cheap financing for the GPs. There have been plenty of GP acquisitions (KMI, for a big example), but rarely (in fact, I think I should say never; I can't think of a single one) does a buyer bother to buy the MLP. Can you mention any?