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Why This Energy Stock Is a Dividend Investor's Dream

Matthew DiLallo, The Motley Fool

Noble Midstream Partners (NYSE: NBLX) currently yields an enticing 4.8%, which is more than double the average of stocks in the S&P 500. However, as good as the pipeline company's dividend is today, it will be even better in the coming years.

That's because the master limited partnership (MLP) has a clear line of sight to grow its high-yielding payout at a 20% annual rate, all the way through 2022; investors who buy today could collect a dividend yielding 10% in less than five years. That fast-growing income stream makes Noble Midstream a dream stock for dividend investors.

A steady stream of expansion projects

One of the main fuels of Noble Midstream's growth forecast is the expansion plan of its oil-producing sponsor, Noble Energy (NYSE: NBL). Noble currently plans to invest about $2.8 billion per year through 2020 to grow its production, with 80% of that spending targeted to boost output from its U.S. shale plays, mainly in the Delaware and DJ Basins.

The company anticipates that its total production volumes will rise at a 20% annual rate through 2020, with oil expected to grow at a faster 25% pace. Noble Midstream will support this growth by building crude oil gathering, treating, and transmission systems, expanding its natural gas gathering network, and constructing produced-water gathering and freshwater delivery systems to handle this rapidly rising output in both the DJ and Delaware Basins.

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In addition to supporting the growth of its parent, Noble Midstream will also assist third-party producers. One of the drivers is a partnership it formed with a private-equity-backed midstream company last year to buy the Black Diamond Gathering system in the DJ Basin. That system initially supported the production of six customers, including PDC Energy (NASDAQ: PDCE). However, the partners have gone on to expand their relationship with PDC Energy as well as recently adding a new customer into the fold, which has enhanced the system's growth prospects.

Noble Midstream is also supporting the development of third-party producers in the Delaware Basin, where it recently signed a contract to provide oil, gas, and produced-water gathering services to a new customer in the region.

In the company's estimation, it will be able to invest several hundred million dollars in each of the next five years to build out its systems in the DJ and Delaware Basins to support the growth of its customers. Those organic growth projects alone should fuel the cash flow needed to increase its distribution to investors by at least 20% annually.

On top of its secured organic growth, the company could potentially buy midstream assets held by Noble Energy, including its stakes in two long-haul pipelines that are currently under construction, as well as from third parties. If it secures some acquisitions, or its producing customers expand more rapidly than anticipated, then Noble Midstream could grow at an even faster rate in the next five years.

The numbers to back up the outlook

Noble Midstream made three needle-moving deals last year, its first full one as a public company. Those acquisitions set the stage for the company to deliver strong internally generated growth in the years to come -- growth it can entirely self-fund. The deals have removed one of the main obstacles that could derail its outlook.

Driving that view is Noble Midstream's strong financial profile. The company anticipates that it can cover its high-yielding distribution with cash flow by a very comfortable ratio of 2.0 to 2.1 in 2018, which is well above the 1.2 average of most MLPs. The company also has a conservative leverage ratio of less than 2.8 times EBITDA, well within the 4.0 comfort zone of most MLPs. Thanks to its strong financial profile, the company can use a combination of free cash flow and incremental borrowings on its credit facility to fund its expansion projects.

Even with all its growth-focused spending, Noble expects to maintain a conservative financial profile throughout its five-year plan, forecasting a distribution coverage ratio of greater than 1.3 in all years and a leverage ratio falling to less than 2.0 by 2021. Those forecasts suggest the company shouldn't have any problems achieving its growth plan.

A great stock for income-seekers

Noble Midstream's current yield alone is high enough to entice most dividend investors. However, what makes it a dream stock is the fact that the company can grow its payout at a high rate while maintaining top-notch financial metrics. With all the qualities found in the best dividend growth stocks, Noble Midstream is a company that income-seekers won't want to miss.

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Matthew DiLallo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.