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One thing that is sometimes missed in contributors presenting the “bull” or “bear” case on individual stocks is that different investors have different needs. Someone who is near or at retirement may be looking for high current income and care little about the growth of a dividend stream, save perhaps that hopefully it grows at the rate of inflation. Other dividend investors, such as myself, are farther away from retirement and are looking for solid growth in both price and dividend stream and are willing to sacrifice current yield to some extent.

To get more to the point of this article, I was browsing the Alerian MLP index and noticed something disturbing: a full nine companies in the index were projected to have negative EPS growth in 2012. Several more were projected to have virtually zero EPS growth in the next few years. This may serve as a warning to ETF investors, but for anyone purchasing a product like MLPN, be aware that a full 1/3 of the companies comprising the index have low to negative growth.

That said, I enjoy the diversification – and the boost to yield – that MLPs can provide a portfolio. So I looked for the 10 large cap companies in the index that showed the strongest projected future EPS growth. I present the full table of ten stocks for your own due diligence and highlight three that I personally believe warrant a closer look.

Energy Transfer Equity (NYSE:ETE)

Energy Transfer Equity is a publically traded company that has grown from a small regional natural gas pipeline company to the third largest MLP in the United States and is the general partner of MLPs Energy Transfer Partnership (NYSE:ETP) and Regency Energy Partners (NYSE:RGP). Even compared to other MLPs, the stock has a high yield of around 7.2%

More importantly, ETE has rocked the M&A headlines this year as it plans to acquire Southern Union’s (NYSE:SUG) natural gas infrastructure and also plans to divest its propane holdings to Amerigas Partners (NYSE:APU) in exchange for cash and stock. These deals have the potential to provide great cost synergies and boost ETE’s 2012 EPS which should flow through to higher distributions. Due to this, ETE leads the list of large cap MLPs with a whopping projected EPS growth of 37%.

This looks great on paper, but as seasoned investors know, mergers and acquisitions don’t always work out as planned. Cynical investors may want to hold off for now, waiting to see if these deals lead to the promised distributions increases; however, by waiting they may miss out on significant capital gains should the company be successful.

ETE Key Metrics

Dividend Yield

7.4%

Consecutive Years of Dividend Increase

7

Total Return (5-year annualized)

9%

Analyst Recommendation

Strong Buy

Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD)

Enterprise Product Partners is the largest MLP in the United States and is involved in the storage, processing and transportation of NGL products. Tax advantages aside, one big downside to the limited partnership is the fact that they have to give cash to their general partner (Incentive Distribution Rights). Well, EPD actually bought out their general partner so they pay no Incentive Distribution Rights. If this sounds like a small thing, then you are mistaken: this significantly reduced EPDs cost of capital as compared to other MLPs. This is part of the reason why they have, and in my opinion will continue to outperform other Master Limited Partnerships. Enterprise Product Partners is a best-in-breed company, with an exceptionally competitive cost structure and is very friendly to its shareholders – if you only own one energy infrastructure MLP, it should be EPD.

EPD Key Metrics

Dividend Yield

5.4%

Consecutive Years of Dividend Increase

14

Total Return (5-year annualized)

15%

Analyst Recommendation

Strong Buy

El Paso Pipeline Partners LP (NYSE:EPB)

The newcomer and smallest company on this list is El Paso Pipeline Partners, which has interests in natural gas pipelines and processing facilities in five states. It is also quickly expanding into California, which is the second largest consumer of NGLs in America. While most companies boast about a dividend increase every year, since 2008, EPB has increased their dividend every quarter. They are growing quickly through acquisitions and investors may want to get involved in this company during their growth phase.

EPB Key Metrics

Dividend Yield

6.0%

Consecutive Years of Dividend Increase

4

Total Return (5-year annualized)

3%

Analyst Recommendation

Strong Buy

The full table of large cap MLPs, sorted by projected EPS growth, for your consideration:

Company

Ticker

Projected EPS Growth

Energy Transfer Equity

ETE

37%

Inergy L.P

NRGY

32%

Kinder Morgan Energy

KMP

29%

Linn Energy Llc

LINE

22%

Enbridge Energy Partners

EEP

17%

Boardwalk Pipeline LP

BWP

17%

NuStar Energy LP

NS

12%

Chesapeake Midstream

CHKM

10%

Enterprise Product Partners

EPD

10%

El Paso Pipeline Partners LP

EPB

7%

Source: Fastest Growing MLPs For Yield Plus Growth