Canada’s Enbridge (NYSE:ENB) has had a pretty rough year so far. Shares are down roughly 20% since the start of the year, and nearly 30% from early-year highs. A lot of that pain has come from the downbeat view investors have of the energy sector, but negative press surrounding the company’s Line 5 pipeline hasn’t helped either. Is this decline an opportunity for long-term investors, or a warning sign to stay away?
1. Oil is a problem, but how big?
The global efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, which have basically involved countries shutting their economies, materially reduced demand for oil and natural gas. The supply/demand imbalance got so bad that, for a brief moment, oil prices fell below zero. That effectively meant that oil companies were paying customers to take oil. Just about anything tied to oil and natural gas have been hit, Enbridge included.
This is a real problem, but perhaps not in the way investors think. The majority of the company’s midstream business is fee-based, meaning it gets paid for the use of its assets — the price of what’s flowing through the system isn’t all that important. However, if demand for oil and natural gas were to start declining, it would likely mean less demand for the company’s assets. And that could result in fewer long-term growth opportunities, since new assets wouldn’t be needed.