Following the recent dividend reduction by NorthStar Realty Finance, CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust (CORR) has become our highest yielding stock among equity REITs, with a whopping rate of 20%. This could be a dividend investor’s dream–except for the fact that CORR is also one of the most volatile REITs. CorEnergy may have had a good dividend record over the past six years for distributing similar or increasing dividends; but right now, the truth is that they have been highly speculative.
CEO David Schulte has been trying hard to dissociate CORR’s stock from the energy markets’ volatility. He has focused on the importance of the company’s assets in order to help the tenants run their operations. He mentioned that the company’s properties are part of the tenants’ essential operations and rent payments are not an expensive portion of their operating expenses. Also, although the company has participating rents in the tenants’ operations, he emphasized that CORR receives the rent payments before debt and equity service. That is, from the tenants’ standpoint, a priority for them to keep paying CorEnergy.
The company went further and disclosed this early March, that major tenants have been compliant with their lease contracts, despite their liquidity concerns. Their three major tenants: Ultra Petroleum Corp (UPL), Energy XXI Ltd (EXXI), and Arc Logistics Partners LP have all paid on time. In a recent presentation, the company provided precise examples of where the rents stand on both UPL’s and EXXI’s income statements. See Below.
Although I have no doubt that Pinedale lease agreement should be important for UPL’s operations, the concerns about UPL go deeper. The company is in a vulnerable position and is struggling to be a going concern. It has to either be able to comply with financials covenants or renegotiate them. Since oil and natural gas prices have not shown material improvement, it has been trying the latter. If UPL doesn’t successfully meet payments, it may file for Chapter 11 or a creditor may file for Chapter 11 for it. This does not exclude the possibility of renegotiating lease rates.
EXXI has been in the same boat as UPL and has already mentioned that filing under Chapter 11 may be unavoidable. EXXI revenues have significantly diminished quarter after quarter. Last month, the company decided not to pay $8.8 million in interest payments and entered into a 30-day grace period. They made the payment eventually, but entered into a new 30-day grace period for another payment due on March 15, 2016, which may lead it to a default.
The stock performance for both UPL and EXXI have been dire. Today they are a small percentage of their 52-week high, putting them into the category of deeply distressed stocks. Last month, the EXXI share price was so low (below $1.00 for 30 days in a row) that NASDAQ informed EXXI that they have to regain minimum bid price or delist the company. As Richard Zeits mentioned in his Seeking Alpha article, investing in EXXI resembles one of a lottery situation. The difference is that in the lottery you know the amount and the timing; in this near-default stock’s case, you don’t.
In summary, aware of the tenants’ severe distress situation, it is hard to buy or hold CorEnergy, except for speculative purposes. Despite their dividend record, to say they have not been an ideal stock for dividend investors is a euphemism.
Source: CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust(NYSE:CORR), Ultra Petroleum Corp.(NYSE:UPL), Energy XXI Ltd.(NasdaqGS:EXXI)
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Disclosure: The author has no positions in any shares mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.