In just one week at the end of March, shares of Crius Energy Trust slumped 30 per cent.
Initially, it seemed like investors oversold out of anger over the latest quarterly earnings. But there's been no recovery since, and the shares are actually worth even less today. The total loss since their February peak: 38 per cent.
Such a sudden drop is always troubling, especially when the Toronto Stock Exchange's energy index is up 2 per cent over the same period. But it is particularly so for Crius because the energy trust is the third of its kind to suddenly hit a slump.
Much like the old income trusts, which were outlawed by the federal government, these new energy trusts pay out hefty distributions. They can do so because there is a loophole in the tax code that exempts Canadian companies whose assets are only in the U.S.
Given this advantage, these trusts started to gain attention here in Canada in late 2010 and picked up steam last year when a few more went public – one of which was Crius.
Early on the trusts seemed like smart investment ideas. Investors crave steady distributions and the trusts typically go public with yields north of 7 per cent.
However, of the four that have already gone public, three have faced significant share price drops. In addition to Crius, Parallel Energy Trust is down 62 per cent since its IPO and Eagle Energy Trust is down 31 per cent since it went public.
Argent Energy Trust is the outlier, actually rising a tad since going public last summer.
The troubles at each trust differ. Crius, for instance, doesn't own conventional oil and gas assets like the others; the company markets and distributes energy to residential homes and small-to-mid-sized companies. Crius hit a rough patch last quarter because its business was severely affected by the rough weather in the U.S. northeast during the fourth quarter of 2012. Once the earnings came out, investors quickly lost confidence
And there's always the chance that these trusts could rebound. Eagle, for instance, reported last week and surprised investors. The stock is up 6 per cent since. Crius could do the same when it reports its next batch of earnings Tuesday morning.
But the message is clear by now: these trusts certainly aren't risk-free. And no amount of yield can make them so.
(Tim Kiladze is a Globe and Mail Reporter.)
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