A Closer Look at 3 High Yielding Oil Royalty Trusts

Includes: BPT, MVO, WHX
by: Eric Dutram

Although the stock market has risen broadly in the first quarter of 2011, numerous concerns remain regarding the health of the global economy. While job creation levels have picked up to more comfortable levels, unemployment remains high in the country, especially when counting the large number of people who would prefer to increase their hours from part-time to full-time and those who have altogether given up looking for a job. Meanwhile, with oil prices poised to remain elevated for the near-term, many sectors around the country, ranging from retail to food producers, look to feel the pinch in this quarter as they debate the merits and ability of passing on costs to consumers.

Thanks to these factors, many investors have decided to take a closer look at royalty trusts, specifically those in the oil & gas sector. These firms look likely to benefit from higher prices for their main products, and even if oil declines marginally from its current level, still pay out hefty dividends which could make them optimal choices for investors in it for the long-haul.

While there are a number of intriguing choices in this space, I chose to take a closer look at three of the highest yielding trusts available to investors on the market today. These trusts offer investors high payouts and could make for decent additions to some portfolios if oil remains elevated in the near-term or for those looking for higher levels of exposure to the oil and gas market:

Whiting USA Trust One (NYSE:WHX)- Dividend yield of 16.1%

According to a recent 10-K by the trust, WHX has a net profits interest that allows the trust to receive 90% of the net proceeds from Whiting’s interests in certain existing oil, natural gas and natural gas liquid producing properties that are located in the Rocky Mountains, Mid-Continent, Permian Basin and Gulf Coast regions. The underlying properties include interests in 3,077 gross (373.1 net) producing oil and gas wells. Interestingly, the net profits interest will terminate when 8.2 million barrels of oil equivalent have been produced. As of December 31, 2010, 3.9 MMBOE has been developed and sold suggesting that the trust is approaching its half-way point in terms of life. Due to this stipulation, the company expects that the trust will be dissolved by November 30, 2015 suggesting that WHX may not make for the best long-term investment, and that there may only be a few years left for investors to cash in on this trust’s impressive yield. Thanks to this issue, investors would be wise to monitor any holdings they have in this firm and consider selling as the trust's end date approaches. Clearly, the impressive dividend yield for this firm was simply too good to be true for those looking for a longer-term pick.

BP Prudhoe Bay Royalty Trust (NYSE:BPT)- Dividend yield of 8.2%

BPT holds the overriding interest in one of the nation’s most famous oil fields; the Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska. The field has about 150,000 productive acres and just over 68 million barrels of oil in net proved reserves. Despite this wealth of oil, the trust only produces about 87,000 barrels of oil a day, a paltry sum considering the immense resources in the space. The upside to this is that unlike WHX, BPT has the wherewithal to last more than a couple years as its supplies seem likely to last decades if not longer.

Basically, the trust acts as a play on the price of WTI crude (minus the expenses of running the trust) so investors who believe that the price of WTI crude will increase and are looking for a way to access the market without the worries of contango that are prevalent in the futures market, BPT may be the way to go. The trust made about $35 per barrel in royalties (for the twelve months ended 9/30/10) with an average WTI price of $77.12, so with oil likely to stay at its current price, one would expect that the average royalty payout would increase, potentially making BPT even more intriguing to long-term investors.

MV Oil Trust (NYSE:MVO)- Dividend yield of 6.9%

For investors seeking another play in the continental U.S., MVO may be the way to go. The trust owns a net profits interest in properties in both Kansas and Colorado including 1,000 producing oil and gas wells that have an expected life in excess of 50 years.

Unlike WHX, MVO has a much longer life; the trust isn’t scheduled to close until the end of Q2 20206 or when 11.5 million barrels of oil equivalent have been produced. At the end of last year, the trust has produced 3.3 million barrels of oil equivalent of the total interest, but was producing about 700,000 barrels of oil equivalent a year over the past two years. This suggests that, at current depletion rates, the property will exist for at least another ten years before it reaches its limit, possibly making it a better pick for investors looking for a longer-term investment. However, since many of its projects are in highly developed fields in the central part of the country, some of the oil deposits are in harder-to-reach places suggesting that fees may be higher and dividends may be lower than the other trusts on this list.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.