|ENTERPRISE PRODUCTS PARTNERS L P filed this Form 10-K on 02/28/2018|
Our business requires extensive credit risk management that may not be adequate to protect against customer nonpayment.
We may incur credit risk to the extent customers do not fulfill their obligations to us in connection with our marketing of natural gas, NGLs, crude oil, petrochemicals and refined products and long-term contracts with minimum volume commitments or fixed demand charges. Risks of nonpayment and nonperformance by customers are a major consideration in our businesses, and our credit procedures and policies may not be adequate to sufficiently eliminate customer credit risk. Further, adverse economic conditions in our industry may increase the risk of nonpayment and nonperformance by customers, particularly customers that have sub-investment grade credit ratings. We manage our exposure to credit risk through credit analysis, credit approvals, credit limits and monitoring procedures, and for certain transactions may utilize letters of credit, prepayments, net out agreements and guarantees. However, these procedures and policies do not fully eliminate customer credit risk.
Our primary market areas are located in the Gulf Coast, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, Northeast and Midwest regions of the U.S. We have a concentration of trade receivable balances due from domestic and international major integrated oil companies, independent oil companies and other pipelines and wholesalers. These concentrations of market areas may affect our overall credit risk in that the customers may be similarly affected by changes in economic, regulatory or other factors.
See Note 2 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included under Part II, Item 8 of this annual report for information regarding our allowance for doubtful accounts.
Our risk management policies cannot eliminate all commodity price risks. In addition, any noncompliance with our risk management policies could result in significant financial losses.
When engaged in marketing activities, it is our policy to maintain physical commodity positions that are substantially balanced with respect to price risks between purchases, on the one hand, and sales or future delivery obligations, on the other hand. Through these transactions, we seek to earn a margin for the commodity purchased by selling the commodity for physical delivery to third party users, such as producers, wholesalers, local distributors, independent refiners, marketing companies or major oil companies. These policies and practices cannot, however, eliminate all price risks. For example, any event that disrupts our anticipated physical supply could expose us to risk of loss resulting from price changes if we are required to obtain alternative supplies to cover our sales transactions. We are also exposed to basis risks when a commodity is purchased against one pricing index and sold against a different index. Moreover, we are exposed to some risks that are not hedged, including price risks on product we own, such as pipeline linefill, which must be maintained in order to facilitate transportation of the commodity in our pipelines. In addition, our marketing operations involve the risk of non-compliance with our risk management policies. We cannot assure you that our processes and procedures will detect and prevent all violations of our risk management policies, particularly if deception or other intentional misconduct is involved. If we were to incur a material loss related to commodity price risks, including non-compliance with our risk management policies, it could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
Our variable-rate debt, including those fixed-rate debt obligations that may be converted to variable-rate through the use of interest rate swaps, make us vulnerable to increases in interest rates, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operation and cash flows.
At December 31, 2017, we had $21.48 billion in principal amount of consolidated fixed-rate debt outstanding, including current maturities thereof. We also had $1.76 billion of commercial paper notes outstanding at December 31, 2017. Due to the short term nature of commercial paper notes, we view the interest rates charged in connection with these instruments as variable.
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System raised benchmark interest rates three times during 2017 and has stated that it expects to raise rates again in 2018. Should interest rates increase significantly, the amount of cash required to service our debt (including any future refinancing of our fixed-rate debt instruments) would increase. Additionally, from time to time, we may enter into interest rate swap arrangements, which could increase our exposure to variable interest rates. As a result, significant increases in interest rates could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations and cash flows.