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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, DC 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 or 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended September 30, 2021

OR

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from                       to                     

Commission File Number: 001-14129

 

STAR GROUP, L.P.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Delaware

 

06-1437793

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

 

9 West Broad Street, Suite 310, Stamford, Connecticut

 

06902

(Address of principal executive office)

 

(Zip Code)

(203) 328-7310

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

Title of each class

 

Trading

Symbol(s)

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Units

 

SGU

 

New York Stock Exchange

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

Large accelerated filer

 

Accelerated filer

Non-accelerated filer

 

Smaller reporting company

 

 

 

Emerging growth company

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).    Yes      No  

The aggregate market value of the registrant’s common units held by non-affiliates on March 31, 2021 was approximately $374,735,728.

As of November 30, 2021, the registrant had 38,610,861 common units outstanding.

Documents Incorporated by Reference: None

 

 

 


 

STAR GROUP, L.P.

2021 FORM 10-K ANNUAL REPORT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

Page

 

 

PART I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1.

 

Business

 

3

Item 1A.

 

Risk Factors

 

12

Item 1B.

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

28

Item 2.

 

Properties

 

28

Item 3.

 

Legal Proceedings—Litigation

 

28

Item 4.

 

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 5.

 

Market for the Registrant’s Units and Related Matters

 

29

Item 6.

 

(Reserved)

 

30

Item 7.

 

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

31

Item 7A.

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk

 

46

Item 8.

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

46

Item 9.

 

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

46

Item 9A.

 

Controls and Procedures

 

46

Item 9B.

 

Other Information

 

47

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 10.

 

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

48

Item 11.

 

Executive Compensation

 

53

Item 12.

 

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management

 

64

Item 13.

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions

 

65

Item 14.

 

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

66

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 15.

 

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

 

68

 

2


 

PART I

Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Disclosure

This Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Report”) includes “forward-looking statements” which represent our expectations or beliefs concerning future events that involve risks and uncertainties, including those associated with the severity and duration of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, the pandemic’s impact on the U.S. and global economies, the timing, scope and effectiveness of federal, state and local governmental responses to the pandemic, the effect of weather conditions on our financial performance, the price and supply of the products that we sell, the consumption patterns of our customers, our ability to obtain satisfactory gross profit margins, our ability to obtain new customers and retain existing customers, our ability to make strategic acquisitions, the impact of litigation, our ability to contract for our current and future supply needs, natural gas conversions, future union relations and the outcome of current and future union negotiations, the impact of current and future governmental regulations, including climate change, environmental, health, and safety regulations, the ability to attract and retain employees, customer credit worthiness, counterparty credit worthiness, marketing plans, cyber-attacks, inflation, global supply chain issues, labor shortages, general economic conditions and new technology. All statements other than statements of historical facts included in this Report including, without limitation, the statements under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and elsewhere herein, are forward-looking statements. Without limiting the foregoing, the words “believe,” “anticipate,” “plan,” “expect,” “seek,” “estimate,” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, we can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct and actual results may differ materially from those projected as a result of certain risks and uncertainties. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those set forth in this Report under the heading “Risk Factors,” “Business Strategy” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis.” Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations (“Cautionary Statements”) are disclosed in this Report. Currently, one of the most significant factors, however, is the potential adverse effect of the current pandemic of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, on the financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and performance of the Company, its customers and counterparties, and the global economy and financial markets. The extent to which COVID-19 impacts us and our customers will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, including the scope, severity and duration of the pandemic, the actions taken to contain the pandemic or mitigate its impact, the direct and indirect economic effects of the pandemic and containment measures, among others. All subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements attributable to the Company or persons acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the Cautionary Statements. Unless otherwise required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise after the date of this Report.

ITEM 1.

BUSINESS

Structure

Star Group, L.P. (“Star” the “Company,” “we,” “us,” or “our”) is a home heating oil and propane distributor and services provider with one reportable operating segment that principally provides heating related services to residential and commercial customers. At a special meeting of unitholders held on October 25, 2017, our unitholders voted in favor of proposals to have the Company elect to be treated as a corporation, instead of a partnership, for federal income tax purposes (commonly referred to as a “check-the-box election”), along with amendments to our partnership agreement to effect such changes in income tax classification, in each case effective November 1, 2017. In addition, the Company changed its name, effective October 25, 2017, from “Star Gas Partners, L.P.” to “Star Group, L.P.” to more closely align our name with the scope of our product and service offerings. For tax years after December 31, 2017, unitholders will receive a Form 1099-DIV and will not receive a Schedule K-1 as in previous tax years. Our legal structure has remained a Delaware limited partnership and the distribution provisions under our limited partnership agreement, including the incentive distribution structure has remained unchanged. As of November 30, 2021, we had outstanding 38.6 million common partner units (NYSE: “SGU”) representing a 99.2% limited partner interest in Star, and 0.3 million general partner units, representing a 0.8% general partner interest in Star.

3


The following chart depicts the ownership of Star as of November 30, 2021:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Group, L.P.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limited Partners

Common Units

99.2%

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Partner (Kestrel Heat)

General Partner Units

0.8%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Public Unitholders - Common Units

 

 

 

 

 

 

89.8%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Officers and Directors - Common Units

 

 

 

 

 

 

10.2%

 

 

 

 

Star is organized as follows:

 

Our general partner is Kestrel Heat, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (“Kestrel Heat” or the “general partner”). The Board of Directors of Kestrel Heat (the “Board”) is appointed by its sole member, Kestrel Energy Partners, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (“Kestrel”).

 

Our operations are conducted through Petro Holdings, Inc., a Minnesota corporation that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Star Acquisitions, Inc., and its subsidiaries.

 

Petroleum Heat and Power Co., Inc. (“PH&P”) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Star. PH&P is the borrower and Star is the guarantor of the fifth amended and restated credit agreement’s $130 million five-year senior secured term loan and the $300 million ($450 million during the heating season of December through April of each year) revolving credit facility, both due December 4, 2024. (See Note 13—Long-Term Debt and Bank Facility Borrowings).

We file annual, quarterly, current and other reports and information with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. These filings can be viewed and downloaded from the Internet at the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. In addition, these SEC filings are available at no cost as soon as reasonably practicable after the filing thereof on our website at www.stargrouplp.com/sec.cfm. You may also obtain copies of these filings and other information at the offices of the New York Stock Exchange located at 11 Wall Street, New York, New York 10005. Please note that any Internet addresses provided in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be hyperlinks. Accordingly, no information found and/or provided at such Internet addresses is intended or deemed to be incorporated by reference herein.

4


Legal Structure

The following chart summarizes our structure as of September 30, 2021.

 

Business Overview

We are a home heating oil and propane distributor and service provider to residential and commercial customers who heat their homes and buildings primarily in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. regions. As of September 30, 2021, we sold home heating oil and propane to approximately 422,200 full service residential and commercial customers and 71,100 customers on a delivery only basis.  Approximately 247,700 of these customers, or 50%, are located in the New York City metropolitan area.  We believe we are the largest retail distributor of home heating oil in the United States, based upon sales volume with a market share in excess of 5.5%. We also sell gasoline and diesel fuel to approximately 26,700 customers. We install, maintain, and repair heating and air conditioning equipment and to a lesser extent provide these services outside our heating oil and propane customer base including 18,300 service contracts for natural gas and other heating systems. During fiscal 2021, total sales were comprised approximately 59% from sales of home heating oil and propane, 22% from other petroleum products, the majority of which is diesel and gasoline, and 19% from the installation and repair of heating and air conditioning equipment and ancillary services. We provide home heating equipment repair service and natural gas service 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, 52 weeks a year. These services are an integral part of our business, and are intended to maximize customer satisfaction and loyalty.

We conduct our business through an operating subsidiary, Petro Holdings, Inc., utilizing multiple local brand names, such as Petro Home Services, Meenan, and Griffith Energy Services, Inc.

We also offer several pricing alternatives to our residential home heating oil customers, including a variable price (market based) option and a price-protected option, the latter of which either sets the maximum price or a fixed price that a customer will pay. Users choose the plan they feel best suits them which we believe increases customer satisfaction. Approximately 95% of our full service residential and commercial home heating oil customers automatically receive deliveries based on prevailing weather conditions. In addition, approximately 33% of our residential customers take advantage of our “smart pay” budget payment plan under which their estimated annual oil and propane deliveries and service billings are paid for in a series of equal monthly installments. We use derivative instruments as needed to mitigate our exposure to market risk associated with our price-protected offerings and the storing of our physical home heating oil inventory. Given our size, we believe we are able to realize certain benefits of scale and provide consistent, strong customer service.

5


Currently, we have heating oil and/or propane customers in the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

 

Industry Characteristics

Home heating oil is primarily used as a source of fuel to heat residences and businesses in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. According to the U.S. Department of Energy—Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey (released May 2018), these regions account for 83% (4.8 million of 5.8 million) of the households in the United States where heating oil is the main space-heating fuel and 23% (4.7 million of 20.4 million) of the homes in these regions use home heating oil as their main space-heating fuel. Our experience has been that customers have a tendency to increase their conservation efforts as the price of home heating oil increases, thereby reducing their consumption.

The retail home heating oil industry is mature, with total market demand expected to decline in the foreseeable future due to conversions to natural gas, availability of other alternative energy sources and the installations of more fuel efficient heating systems. Therefore, our ability to maintain our business or grow within the industry is dependent on the acquisition of other retail distributors, the success of our marketing programs, and the growth of our other service offerings. Based on our records, our customer conversions to natural gas have ranged between 1.1% and 1.4% per year over the last five years. We believe this may continue or even increase. In addition, there are legislative and regulatory efforts underway in several states seeking to encourage homeowners to reduce or even eliminate the consumption of carbon based fuels that we sell.

The retail home heating oil industry is highly fragmented, characterized by a large number of relatively small, independently owned and operated local distributors. Some dealers provide full service, as we do, and others offer delivery only on a cash-on-delivery basis, which we also do to a significantly lesser extent. In addition, the industry is complex and costly due to regulations, working capital requirements, and the costs and risks of hedging for price protected customers.

Propane is a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining. Propane use falls into three broad categories: residential and commercial applications; industrial applications; and agricultural uses. In the residential and commercial markets, propane is used primarily for space heating, water heating, clothes drying and cooking. Industrial customers use propane generally as a motor fuel to power over-the-road vehicles, forklifts and stationary engines, to fire furnaces, as a cutting gas and in other process applications. In the agricultural market, propane is primarily used for tobacco curing, crop drying, poultry breeding and weed control.

The retail propane distribution industry is highly competitive and is generally serviced by large multi-state full-service distributors and small local independent distributors. Like the home heating oil industry, each retail propane distribution provider operates in its own competitive environment because propane distributors typically reside in close proximity to their customers. In most retail propane distribution markets, customers can choose from multiple distributors based on the quality of customer service, safety, reputation and price.

It is common practice in our business to price our liquid products to customers based on a per gallon margin over wholesale costs. As a result, we believe distributors such as ourselves generally seek to maintain their per gallon margins by passing wholesale price increases through to customers, thus insulating their margins from the volatility in wholesale prices. However, distributors may be unable or unwilling to pass the entire product cost increases through to customers. We believe this is especially true in the propane business. In these cases, significant decreases in per gallon margins may result. The timing of cost pass-throughs can also significantly affect margins. (See Customers and Pricing for a discussion on our offerings).

Business Strategy

Our business strategy is to increase Adjusted EBITDA (See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations for a definition) and cash flow by effectively managing operations while growing and retaining our customer base as a retail distributor of home heating oil and propane and provider of related products and services. The key elements of this strategy include the following:

6


Pursue select acquisitions Our senior management team has developed expertise in identifying acquisition opportunities and integrating acquired customers into our operations. We focus on acquiring profitable companies within and outside our current footprint.

We actively pursue home heating oil only companies, propane companies, dual fuel (home heating oil and propane) companies and selectively target motor fuels acquisitions, especially where they are operating in the markets we currently serve.

Deliver superior customer service We are dedicated to consistently providing our customers with superior service and a positive customer experience to improve retention and drive additional revenue. We have established programs and conduct surveys to effectively measure customer satisfaction at certain brands.

We have deployed a customer relationship management solution at most of our larger brands. We believe this allows us to provide a more consistent customer experience as our employees will have a 360 degree-view of each customer with easy access to key customer information and customized dashboards to track individual employee performance.

We have resources dedicated to training employees to provide superior and consistent service and enhance the customer experience. This effort is supported, reinforced and monitored by our local management teams.

Provide complementary service offerings These offerings include, but are not limited to, the sales, service and installation of heating and air conditioning equipment, and standby home generators. In addition, we also repair and install natural gas heating systems.

Pursue environmental sustainability opportunities We are committed to pursuing initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our product offerings, including blending biofuel (a carbon neutral renewable fuel produced from vegetable oils or animal fats) into our petroleum products and offering energy efficient heating and air conditioning equipment to our customers

Seasonality

Our fiscal year ends on September 30. All references to quarters and years respectively in this document are to fiscal quarters and years unless otherwise noted. The seasonal nature of our business results in the sale of approximately 30% of our volume of home heating oil and propane in the first fiscal quarter and 50% of our volume in the second fiscal quarter of each fiscal year, the peak heating season. Approximately 25% of our volume of motor fuel and other petroleum products is sold in each of the four fiscal quarters. We generally realize net income in our first and second fiscal quarters and net losses during our third and fourth fiscal quarters and we expect that the negative impact of seasonality on our third and fourth fiscal quarter operating results will continue. In addition, sales volume typically fluctuates from year to year in response to variations in weather, wholesale energy prices and other factors.

Degree Day

A “degree day” is an industry measurement of temperature designed to evaluate energy demand and consumption. Degree days are based on how far the average daily temperature departs from 65°F. Each degree of temperature above 65°F is counted as one cooling degree day, and each degree of temperature below 65°F is counted as one heating degree day. Degree days are accumulated each day over the course of a year and can be compared to a monthly or a multi-year average to see if a month or a year was warmer or cooler than usual. Degree days are officially observed by the National Weather Service.

Every ten years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) computes and publishes average meteorological quantities, including the average temperature for the last 30 years by geographical location, and the corresponding degree days. The latest and most widely used data covers the years from 1991 to 2020. Our calculations of normal weather are based on these published 30 year averages for heating degree days, weighted by volume for the locations where we have existing operations.

7


Competition

Most of our operating locations compete with numerous distributors, primarily on the basis of price, reliability of service and response to customer needs. Each such location operates in its own competitive environment.

Customer Attrition

We measure net customer attrition for our full service residential and commercial home heating oil and propane customers. Net customer attrition is the difference between gross customer losses and customers added through marketing efforts. Customers added through acquisitions are not included in the calculation of gross customer gains. However, additional customers that are obtained through marketing efforts at newly acquired businesses are included in these calculations. Customer attrition percentage calculations include customers added through acquisitions in the denominators of the calculations on a weighted average basis. Gross customer losses are the result of a number of factors, including price competition, move outs, credit losses and conversions to natural gas. (See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Customer Attrition.)

Customers and Pricing

The number of home heating oil customers comprise 81% of our product customer base, with propane customers comprising another 14% and motor fuel and other petroleum product customers making up the remaining 5%. (During fiscal 2021 we sold 305.9 million gallons of home heating oil and propane and 154.1 million gallons of motor fuel and other petroleum products.)

Our full service home heating oil customer base is comprised of 97% residential customers and 3% commercial customers. Approximately 95% of our full service residential and commercial home heating oil customers have their deliveries scheduled automatically and 5% of our home heating oil customer base call from time to time to schedule a delivery. Automatic deliveries are scheduled based on each customer’s historical consumption pattern and prevailing weather conditions. Our practice is to bill customers promptly after delivery. We offer a balanced payment plan to residential customers in which a customer’s estimated annual oil purchases and service contract fees are paid for in a series of equal monthly payments. Approximately 33% of our residential home heating oil customers have selected this billing option.

We offer several pricing alternatives to our residential home heating oil customers. Our variable pricing program allows the price to float with the heating oil market and other factors. In addition, we offer price-protected programs, which establish either a ceiling or a fixed price per gallon that the customer pays over a defined period. The following chart depicts the percentage of the pricing plans selected by our residential home heating oil customers as of the end of the fiscal year.

 

 

 

September 30,

 

 

 

2021

 

 

2020

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2017

 

Variable

 

 

55.0

%

 

 

54.4

%

 

 

53.9

%

 

 

55.2

%

 

 

52.6

%

Ceiling

 

 

39.0

%

 

 

38.5

%

 

 

39.1

%

 

 

36.9

%

 

 

37.1

%

Fixed

 

 

6.0

%

 

 

7.1

%

 

 

7.0

%

 

 

7.9

%

 

 

10.3

%

 

 

 

100.0

%

 

 

100.0

%

 

 

100.0

%

 

 

100.0

%

 

 

100.0

%

Sales to residential customers ordinarily generate higher per gallon margins than sales to commercial customers. Due to greater price sensitivity, our own internal marketing efforts, and hedging costs of residential price-protected customers, the per gallon margins realized from price-protected customers generally are less than from variable priced residential customers.

The propane customer base has a similar profile to heating oil residential and commercial customers. Pricing plans chosen by propane customers are almost exclusively variable in nature where selling prices will float with the propane market and other commercial factors.  

The motor fuel and other petroleum products customer group includes commercial and industrial customers of unbranded diesel, gasoline, kerosene and related distillate products.  We sell products to these customers through contracts of various terms or through a competitive bidding process.  

8


Derivatives

We use derivative instruments in order to mitigate our exposure to market risk associated with the purchase of home heating oil for our price-protected customers, physical inventory on hand, inventory in transit, priced purchase commitments, and the variable interest rate on a portion of our term loan. Currently, the Company’s derivative instruments are with the following counterparties: Bank of America, N.A., Bank of Montreal, Cargill, Inc., Citibank, N.A., JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Key Bank, N.A., Toronto-Dominion Bank and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) 815-10-05, Derivatives and Hedging, requires that derivative instruments be recorded at fair value and included in the consolidated balance sheet as assets or liabilities. To the extent our interest rate derivative instruments designated as cash flow hedges are effective, as defined under this guidance, changes in fair value are recognized in other comprehensive income (loss) until the hedged item is recognized in earnings. We have elected not to designate our commodity derivative instruments as hedging instruments under this guidance, and as a result, the changes in fair value of the derivative instruments during the holding period are recognized in our statement of operations. Therefore, we experience volatility in earnings as outstanding derivative instruments are marked to market and non-cash gains and losses are recorded prior to the sale of the commodity to the customer. The volatility in any given period related to unrealized non-cash gains or losses on derivative instruments can be significant to our overall results. However, we ultimately expect those gains and losses to be offset by the cost of product when purchased. Depending on the risk being hedged, realized gains and losses are recorded in cost of product, cost of installations and services, or delivery and branch expenses.

Suppliers and Supply Arrangements

We purchase our product for delivery in either barge, pipeline or truckload quantities, and as of September 30, 2021, had contracts with approximately 125 third-party terminal sites for the right to temporarily store petroleum products at their facilities. Home heating oil and propane purchases are made under supply contracts or on the spot market. We have entered into market price based contracts for approximately 74% of our expected home heating oil and propane requirements for the fiscal 2022 heating season. For the fiscal year 2022 heating season, approximately 60% of the Company’s contracted home heating oil volume with suppliers has a biofuel component (an increase from the 7% of the Company’s contracted home heating oil volume with a biofuel component in fiscal 2021).  We also have market price based contracts for approximately 29% of our expected diesel and gasoline requirements for fiscal 2022.

During fiscal 2021, Motiva Enterprises LLC and Global Companies LLC provided approximately 12% each of our petroleum product purchases. During fiscal 2020, Shell Oil Company, Motiva Enterprises LLC and Global Companies LLC provided approximately 13%, 12% and 11% respectively, of our petroleum product purchases. Supply contracts typically have terms of 6 to 12 months. All of the supply contracts provide for minimum quantities and in most cases do not establish in advance the price of home heating oil or propane. This price is based upon a published market index price at the time of delivery or pricing date plus an agreed upon differential. We believe that our policy of contracting for the majority of our anticipated supply needs with diverse and reliable sources will enable us to obtain sufficient product should unforeseen shortages develop in worldwide supplies.

9


Liquid Product Price Volatility

Volatility, which is reflected in the wholesale price of liquid products, including home heating oil, propane and motor fuels, has a larger impact on our business when prices rise. Home heating oil consumers are price sensitive to heating cost increases, and this often leads to increased gross customer losses. As a commodity, the price of home heating oil is generally impacted by many factors, including economic and geopolitical forces. The price of home heating oil is closely linked to the price of diesel fuel. The volatility in the wholesale cost of diesel fuel as measured by the New York Mercantile Exchange (“NYMEX”), for the fiscal years ending September 30, 2017, through 2021, on a quarterly basis, is illustrated in the following chart (price per gallon):

 

 

 

Fiscal 2021 (a)

 

 

Fiscal 2020

 

 

Fiscal 2019

 

 

Fiscal 2018

 

 

Fiscal 2017

 

Quarter Ended

 

Low

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

High

 

December 31

 

$

1.08

 

 

$

1.51

 

 

$

1.86

 

 

$

2.05

 

 

$

1.66

 

 

$

2.44

 

 

$

1.74

 

 

$

2.08

 

 

$

1.39

 

 

$

1.70

 

March 31

 

 

1.46

 

 

 

1.97

 

 

 

0.95

 

 

 

2.06

 

 

 

1.70

 

 

 

2.04

 

 

 

1.84

 

 

 

2.14

 

 

 

1.49

 

 

 

1.70

 

June 30

 

 

1.77

 

 

 

2.16

 

 

 

0.61

 

 

 

1.22

 

 

 

1.78

 

 

 

2.12

 

 

 

1.96

 

 

 

2.29

 

 

 

1.37

 

 

 

1.65

 

September 30

 

 

1.91

 

 

 

2.34

 

 

 

1.08

 

 

 

1.28

 

 

 

1.75

 

 

 

2.08

 

 

 

2.05

 

 

 

2.35

 

 

 

1.45

 

 

 

1.86

 

 

(a)

On November 30, 2021, the NYMEX ultra low sulfur diesel contract closed at $2.06 per gallon or $0.27 per gallon higher than the average of $1.79 in Fiscal 2021.

Acquisitions

Part of our business strategy is to pursue select acquisitions. Each acquired company’s operating results are included in the Company’s consolidated financial statements starting on its acquisition date. Customer lists, other intangibles (excluding goodwill) and trade names are amortized on a straight-line basis over seven to twenty years.

During fiscal 2021, the Company acquired two propane and three heating oil dealers for approximately $42.5 million; $40.7 million in cash and $1.8 million of deferred liabilities. The gross purchase price was allocated $37.3 million to goodwill and intangible assets, $6.2 million to fixed assets and reduced by $1.0 million to working capital.  

During fiscal 2020, the Company acquired two heating oil dealers for approximately $3.3 million; $3.0 million in cash and $0.3 million of deferred liabilities. The gross purchase price was allocated $3.2 million to goodwill and intangible assets, $0.6 million to fixed assets and $0.5 million to working capital.  The Company also completed the purchase of assets related to our fiscal 2019 acquisition of a heating oil dealer for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $1.2 million.

During fiscal 2019, the Company acquired one of its subcontractors, a liquid product dealer and the assets of a propane dealer with a combined total of approximately 24,000 home heating oil and propane accounts for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $60.9 million in cash. The gross purchase price was allocated $44.7 million to goodwill and intangible assets, $13.7 million to fixed assets and $2.5 million to working capital.

Employees and Human Capital Management

We consider our employees a key factor to Star’s success and we are focused on attracting and retaining the best employees at all levels of our business. In particular, our dedication to providing superior customer service depends significantly on employee satisfaction and retention.  We strive to create a productive and collaborative work environment for our employees.  Our human capital measures and objectives focus on safety of our employees, employee benefits, and employee development and training.

The safety of our employees and customers is paramount. We strive to ensure that all employees feel safe in their respective work environment. Since March 2020, a majority of our office personnel are working remotely. Our field employees are following COVID-19 guidelines and we continue to make deliveries and provide service to our customers. As peak heating season begins, we have cautiously returned some of customer service, credit, service dispatch, and inside sales employees back into our facilities with our team’s health and well-being in mind. We believe that our employees have adapted well and continue to be flexible to the changing working conditions

To attract talent and meet the needs of our employees, we offer benefits packages for full-time employees. We offer a health and welfare and retirement program to all eligible employees.  We also provide our employees with

10


resources for professional development including technical training, feedback and performance reviews from supervisors, and management training.

As of September 30, 2021, we had 3,121 employees, of whom 783 were office, clerical and customer service personnel; 898 were equipment technicians; 507 were fuel delivery drivers and mechanics; 613 were management and 320 were employed in sales. Of these employees 1,375 (44%) are represented by 58 different collective bargaining agreements with local chapters of labor unions. Due to the seasonal nature of our business and depending on the demands of the 2022 heating season, we anticipate that we will augment our current staffing levels during the heating season from among the 336 employees on temporary leave of absence as of September 30, 2021. There are 17 collective bargaining agreements up for renewal in fiscal 2022, covering approximately 295 employees (10%). We believe that our relations with both our union and non-union employees are generally satisfactory.

Government Regulations

We are subject to various federal, state and local environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. Generally, these laws impose limitations on the discharge or emission of pollutants and establish standards for the handling of solid and hazardous wastes. These laws include the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), the Clean Air Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and comparable state statutes. CERCLA, also known as the “Superfund” law, imposes joint and several liabilities without regard to fault or the legality of the original conduct on certain classes of persons that are considered to have contributed to the release or threatened release of a hazardous substance into the environment. Products stored and/or delivered by us and certain automotive waste products generated by our fleet are hazardous substances within the meaning of CERCLA or otherwise subject to investigation and cleanup under other environmental laws and regulations. While we are currently not involved with any material CERCLA claims, and we have implemented programs and policies designed to address potential liabilities and costs under applicable environmental laws and regulations, failure to comply with such laws and regulations could result in civil or criminal penalties or injunctive relief in cases of non-compliance or impose liability for remediation costs.

We have incurred and continue to incur costs to address soil and groundwater contamination at some of our locations, including legacy contamination at properties that we have acquired. A number of our properties are what is currently undergoing remediation, in some instances funded by prior owners or operators contractually obligated to do so. To date, no material issues have arisen with respect to such prior owners or operators addressing such remediation, although there is no assurance that this will continue to be the case. In addition, we have been subject to proceedings by regulatory authorities for alleged violations of environmental and safety laws and regulations. We do not expect any of these liabilities or proceedings of which we are aware to result in material costs to, or disruptions of, our business or operations.

Transportation of our products by truck is subject to regulations promulgated under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act. These regulations cover the transportation of hazardous materials and are administered by the United States Department of Transportation or similar state agencies. Several of our oil terminals are governed under the United States Coast Guard operations Oversite, Federal OPA 90 FRP programs and Federal Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure programs. All of our propane bulk terminals are governed under Homeland Security Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards programs. We conduct ongoing training programs to help ensure that our operations are in compliance with applicable regulations. We maintain various permits that are necessary to operate some of our facilities, some of which may be material to our operations.

There is increasing attention in the United States and worldwide concerning the issue of climate change and the effect of emissions of greenhouse gases (“GHG”), in particular from the combustion of fossil fuels. Federal, regional and state regulatory authorities in many jurisdictions have begun taking steps to regulate GHG emissions including proposals that encourage homeowners to switch to alternate sources of energy than those we sell.

11


ITEM 1A.

RISK FACTORS

You should consider carefully the risk factors discussed below, as well as all other information, as an investment in the Company involves a high degree of risk. We are subject to certain risks and hazards due to the nature of the business activities we conduct. The risks discussed below, any of which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, cash flows, and results of operations, could result in a partial or total loss of your investment, and are not the only risks we face. We may experience additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us or, as a result of developments occurring in the future, conditions that we currently deem to be immaterial may also materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, cash flows and results of operations.

Risk Factors Summary

Below is a summary of material factors that make an investment in our common units speculative or risky:

 

Risks Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has and may continue to adversely impact our business and operations.

Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of employees could impact our ability to hire and retain employees and may have a material adverse effect on our business.

Risks Related to Demand and Our Operations

 

Our operating results will be adversely affected if we experience significant net customer attrition in our home heating oil and propane customer base, such as from natural gas conversions.

Because of the highly competitive nature of our business, we may not be able to retain existing customers or acquire new customers.

If we do not make acquisitions on economically acceptable terms, our future growth will be limited.

Since weather conditions may adversely affect the demand for home heating oil and propane, our business, operating results and financial condition are vulnerable to warm winters as well as other seasonal fluctuations.

Risks Related to Product Pricing and Costs

 

High product prices can lead to customer attrition, resulting in reduced demand for our products and adversely affect our liability.

Our hedging strategy may adversely affect our liquidity.

Sudden and sharp oil price increases that cannot be passed on to customers may adversely affect our operating results.

Significant declines in the wholesale price of home heating oil may cause price-protected customers to renegotiate or terminate their arrangements which may adversely impact our operating results.

A significant portion of our home heating oil volume is sold to price-protected customers, and our results of operations could be adversely affected if we are not able to hedge against fluctuations in the volume and cost of product sold to those customers.

Our risk management policies cannot eliminate all commodity risk, basis risk, or the impact of adverse market conditions.

Our obligation to fund multi-employer pension plans may have an adverse impact on us.

12


 

Risks Related to Our Legal and Environmental Activities

 

We are subject to operating and litigation risks that could adversely affect our operating results whether or not we are covered by insurance.

Our results of operations and financial condition may be adversely affected by governmental regulation and associated environmental, tax and regulatory costs.

Greenhouse gas emissions or other legislation or regulations intended to address climate change could increase our operating costs, adversely affecting our financial results, growth, cash flows and results of operations.

Our operations would be adversely affected if service at our third-party terminals or on the common carrier pipelines used is interrupted.

We depend on the use of information technology systems that have been and may in the future be a target of cyber-attacks.

Risks Related to People and Competition

 

Conflicts of interest within our company have arisen and could arise again in the future.

Our inability to identify qualified individuals for our workforce could adversely impact our operations.

A substantial portion of our workforce is unionized, and, as a result, we may face labor actions that could disrupt our operations.

Risks Related to Ownership of Our Common Units

 

Cash distributions are not guaranteed and may fluctuate with performance and reserve requirements.

If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal controls, then we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud, causing unitholders to lose confidence in our financial reporting, which could harm our business.

Risks Related to Our Indebtedness

 

Our substantial debt, as well as a number of restrictive covenants in our Credit Agreement, including through if the indebtedness outstanding thereunder is accelerated, could impair our financial condition and ability to obtain additional financing.

We are not required to accumulate cash for the purpose of meeting our future debt obligations, which may limit the cash available to service the final payment due under our Credit Agreement.

General Risk Factors

 

Economic conditions, which include disruptions in our supply chain and other factors, affecting the delivery of our products and services as well as demand for our products could adversely impact our business.

Continuing inflation may hurt our sales margins and profitability.

Energy efficiency and new technology may reduce the demand for our products and adversely affect our operating results.

The risk of global terrorism and political unrest may adversely affect the economy and availability of the products that we sell and have a material adverse effect on our business.

13


Risks Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions to our operations and has impacted our business and may continue to impact our business and operations in numerous ways that remain unpredictable.

Our business has been and may continue to be impacted by the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  This pandemic and related measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19, such as government-mandated business closures, office closures, state and local orders to “shelter in place,” and travel and transportation restrictions, have negatively affected the U.S. and global economies, disrupted U.S. and global supply chains and led to unprecedented levels of unemployment.  There continues to be uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, its duration, and its impact on U.S. and global economic activity and consumer behavior. The Delta variant of COVID-19, which appears to be the most transmissible and contagious variant to date, has caused a surge in COVID-19 cases globally. The impact of the Delta variant, or other variants that may emerge, cannot be predicted at this time, and could depend on numerous factors, including the availability of vaccines in different parts of the world, vaccination rates among the population, the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against the Delta variant and other variants, and the response by governmental bodies to reinstate mandated business closures, orders to “shelter in place,” and travel and transportation restrictions. If workers at one or more of our offices or the offices of our suppliers become ill or are quarantined and in either or both events are therefore unable to work, or we experience other labor constraints resulting from employee turnover or departures due to resistance to vaccine mandates, our operations could be subject to disruption due to staffing shortages. Due to the surge in the Delta variant of the coronavirus, we extended the remote working arrangements implemented for the majority of our office personnel in response to the pandemic.  Our remote working arrangements may become strained or result in service delays, especially as these arrangements extend into the peak heating oil season. Further, certain of our customers’ financial condition may continue to be adversely impacted as a result of the impacts of COVID-19, or another global public health pandemic, and efforts taken to prevent its spread, which could result in reduced demand or impact their ability to pay for our products and services. We are also experiencing disruptions in the procurement of certain HVAC equipment and home generators.

The extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operational and financial performance, including our ability to execute our business strategies and initiatives, will depend on future developments, including the duration and spread of COVID-19 and related restrictions on travel and general mobility, the price of petroleum products and the timing, scope and effectiveness of federal, state and local governmental responses, all of which are uncertain and cannot be predicted. An extended period of global supply chain and economic disruption caused by COVID-19 and its variants could materially affect our business, results of operations, access to sources of liquidity and financial condition, and we have experienced the negative impacts of such disruption since March 2020.

Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of employees could impact our workforce and have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a proposed new rule requiring all employers with at least 100 employees to require that their employees be fully vaccinated or tested weekly. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued emergency rules on November 5, 2021 to carry out this mandate.  On November 18, 2021, the OSHA suspended enforcement of the vaccine mandate after a U.S. federal court of appeals panel reaffirmed an earlier temporary halt of the mandate. At this time, it is unclear, among other things, if the vaccine mandate will apply to all employees, including our commercial drivers and service technicians, or only to employees who work in the office and how compliance will be documented.

As a company with more than 100 employees, it is anticipated that we would be subject to the OSHA regulation mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for a portion of our workforce.  OSHA’s vaccine requirement and the proposed new regulation, if implemented, may result in employee attrition, which could materially adversely affect future revenues and costs and have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.  The vaccine mandate may also put us at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis many of our competitors, which have less than 100 employees and are not subject to the vaccine mandate.  At this time, it is not possible to predict with certainty the exact impact that the proposed new regulation or the Company’s vaccine requirement will have on us or on our workforce.

14


Risks Related to Demand and Our Operations

Our operating results will be adversely affected if we continue to experience significant net customer attrition in our home heating oil and propane customer base.

The following table depicts our gross customer gains, gross customer losses and net customer attrition from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2021. Net customer attrition is the difference between gross customer losses and customers added through marketing efforts. Customers added through acquisitions are not included in the calculation of gross customer gains. However, additional customer gains that are obtained through marketing efforts and losses at newly acquired businesses are included in these calculations from the point of closing going forward. Customer attrition percentage calculations include customers added through acquisitions in the denominators of the calculations on a weighted average basis from the closing date.

 

 

 

Fiscal Year Ended September 30,

 

 

 

2021

 

 

2020

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2017

 

Gross customer gains

 

 

10.7

%

 

 

12.2

%

 

 

12.9

%

 

 

13.0

%

 

 

13.1

%

Gross customer losses

 

 

14.6

%

 

 

15.6

%

 

 

18.3

%

 

 

16.2

%

 

 

14.6

%

Net attrition

 

 

(3.9

%)

 

 

(3.4

%)

 

 

(5.4

%)

 

 

(3.2

%)

 

 

(1.5

%)

 

The gain of a new customer does not fully compensate for the loss of an existing customer because of the expenses incurred during the first year to add a new customer. Typically, the per gallon margin realized from a new account added is less than the margin of a customer that switches to another provider. Customer losses are the result of various factors, including but not limited to:

 

price competition;

 

customer relocations and home sales/foreclosures;

 

credit worthiness;

 

service disruptions; and

 

conversions to natural gas.

The continuing volatility in the energy markets can intensify price competition and add to our difficulty in reducing net customer attrition. Warmer than normal weather can also contribute to an increase in attrition as customers perceive less need for a full service provider like ourselves.  Additionally, the continuing economic impact of COVID-19 and its variants could increase future attrition due to higher losses from credit related issues.

If we are not able to reduce the current level of net customer attrition or if such level should increase, attrition will have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and cash available for distributions to unitholders. For additional information about customer attrition, see Item 7 “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Customer Attrition.”

Because of the highly competitive nature of our business, we may not be able to retain existing customers or acquire new customers, which would have an adverse impact on our business, operating results and financial condition.

Our business is subject to substantial competition. Most of our operating locations compete with numerous distributors, primarily on the basis of price, reliability of service and responsiveness to customer service needs. Each operating location operates in its own competitive environment.

We compete with distributors offering a broad range of services and prices, from full-service distributors, such as ourselves, to those offering delivery only. As do many companies in our business, we provide home heating equipment repair service on a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, 52 weeks a year basis. We believe that this tends to build customer loyalty. In some instances homeowners have formed buying cooperatives that seek to purchase home heating oil from distributors at a price lower than individual customers are otherwise able to obtain. We also compete for retail customers with suppliers of alternative energy products, principally natural gas, propane (in the case of our home heating oil operations) and electricity. If we are unable to compete effectively, we may lose

15


existing customers and/or fail to acquire new customers, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and financial condition.

Our operating results will be adversely affected if we experience significant net customer attrition from natural gas conversions.

The following table depicts our estimated customer losses to natural gas conversions for the last five fiscal years. Losses to natural gas in our footprint for the home heating oil industry could be greater or less than our estimates.

 

 

Fiscal Year Ended September 30,

 

 

 

2021

 

 

2020

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2017

 

Customer losses to natural gas conversion

 

 

(1.1

)%

 

 

(1.1

)%

 

 

(1.4

)%

 

 

(1.3

)%

 

 

(1.2

)%

 

In addition to our direct customer losses to natural gas competition, any conversion to natural gas by a heating oil consumer in our geographic footprint reduces the pool of available customers from which we can gain new heating oil customers, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and financial condition.

If we do not make acquisitions on economically acceptable terms, our future growth will be limited.

Generally, heating oil and propane are alternative energy sources to new housing construction, because natural gas is usually selected when natural gas infrastructure exists. In certain geographies, utilities are building out their natural gas infrastructure. As such, our industry is not a growth industry. Accordingly, future growth will depend on our ability to make acquisitions on economically acceptable terms. We cannot assure that we will be able to identify attractive acquisition candidates in our sector in the future or that we will be able to acquire businesses on economically acceptable terms.  Adverse operating and financial results may limit our access to capital and adversely affect our ability to make acquisitions. Under the terms of our fifth amended and restated credit agreement (“Credit Agreement”), we are restricted from making any individual acquisition in excess of $25.0 million without the lenders’ approval. In addition, to make an acquisition, we are required to have Availability (as defined in our Credit Agreement) of at least $40.0 million, on a historical pro forma and forward-looking basis. Furthermore, as long as the bank term loan is outstanding, we must be in compliance with the senior secured leverage ratio (as defined in our Credit Agreement). These covenant restrictions may limit our ability to make acquisitions. Any acquisition may involve potential risks to us and ultimately to our unitholders, including:

 

an increase in our indebtedness;

 

an increase in our working capital requirements;

 

an inability to integrate the operations of the acquired business;

 

an inability to successfully expand our operations into new territories;

 

the diversion of management’s attention from other business concerns;

 

an excess of customer loss from the acquired business;

 

loss of key employees from the acquired business; and

 

the assumption of additional liabilities including environmental liabilities.

In addition, acquisitions may be dilutive to earnings and distributions to unitholders, and any additional debt incurred to finance acquisitions may, among other things, affect our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.

Since weather conditions may adversely affect the demand for home heating oil and propane, our business, operating results and financial condition are vulnerable to warm winters.

Weather conditions in regions in which we operate have a significant impact on the demand for home heating oil and propane because our customers depend on this product largely for space heating purposes. As a result, weather conditions may materially adversely impact our business, operating results and financial condition. During the peak-heating season of October through March, sales of home heating oil and propane historically have

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represented approximately 80% of our annual volume sold. Actual weather conditions can vary substantially from year to year or from month to month, significantly affecting our financial performance. Climate change may result in increased weather volatility. Warmer than normal temperatures in one or more regions in which we operate can significantly decrease the total volume we sell and the gross profit realized and, consequently, our results of operations.

To partially mitigate the adverse effect of warm weather on cash flows, we have used weather hedge contracts for a number of years. In general, such weather hedge contracts provide that we are entitled to receive a specific payment per heating degree-day shortfall, when the total number of heating degree-days in the hedge period is less than the ten year average. The “payment thresholds,” or strikes, are set at various levels. The hedge period runs from November 1, through March 31, of a fiscal year taken as a whole.

For fiscal year 2022, we entered into a weather hedging contracts under which we are entitled to a payment capped at $12.5 million if degree days are less than the Payment Threshold and we are obligated to make an annual payment capped at $5.0 million if degree days exceed the Payment Threshold. However, there can be no assurance that such weather hedge contracts would fully or substantially offset the adverse effects of warmer weather on our business and operating results during such period or that colder weather will result in enough profit to offset a payment by the Company to its provider.

Our operating results are subject to seasonal fluctuations.

Our operating results are subject to seasonal fluctuations since the demand for home heating oil and propane is greater during the first and second fiscal quarter of our fiscal year, which is the peak heating season. The seasonal nature of our business has resulted on average in the last five years in the sale of approximately 30% of our volume of home heating oil and propane in the first fiscal quarter and 50% of our volume in the second fiscal quarter of each fiscal year. As a result, we generally realize net income in our first and second fiscal quarters and net losses during our third and fourth fiscal quarters and we expect that the negative impact of seasonality on our third and fourth fiscal quarter operating results will continue. Thus any material reduction in the profitability of the first and second quarters for any reason, including warmer than normal weather, generally cannot be made up by any significant profitability improvements in the results of the third and fourth quarters.

Risks Related to Product Pricing and Costs

High product prices can lead to customer conservation and attrition, resulting in reduced demand for our products.

Prices for our products are subject to volatile fluctuations in response to changes in supply and other market conditions. During periods of high product costs our prices generally increase. High prices can lead to customer conservation and attrition, resulting in reduced demand for our products.

Increases in wholesale product costs may have adverse effects on our business, financial condition, results of operations, or liquidity.

Increases in wholesale product costs may have adverse effects on our business, financial condition and results of operations, including the following:

 

customer conservation or attrition due to customers converting to lower cost heating products or suppliers;

 

reduced liquidity as a result of higher receivables, and/or inventory balances as we must fund a portion of any increase in receivables, inventory and hedging costs from our own resources, thereby tying up funds that would otherwise be available for other purposes;

 

higher bad debt expense and credit card processing costs as a result of higher selling prices;

 

higher interest expense as a result of increased working capital borrowing to finance higher receivables and/or inventory balances; and

 

higher vehicle fuel costs.

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If increases in wholesale product costs cause our working capital requirements to exceed the amounts available under our revolving credit facility or should we fail to maintain the required availability or fixed charge coverage ratio, we would not have sufficient working capital to operate our business, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Our business requires a significant amount of working capital to finance inventory and accounts receivable generated during the heating season. Under our Credit Agreement, we may borrow up to $300 million, which increases to $450 million during the peak winter months from December through April of each fiscal year. We are obligated to meet certain financial covenants under our Credit Agreement, including the requirement to maintain at all times either excess availability (borrowing base less amounts borrowed and letters of credit issued) of 12.5% of the revolving credit commitment then in effect or a fixed charge coverage ratio (as defined in our Credit Agreement) of not less than 1.1. In addition, as long as our term loan is outstanding, our senior secured leverage ratio cannot be more than 3.0 as calculated as of the quarters ending June 30 or September 30, and no more than 4.5 as calculated as of the quarters ending December 31 or March 31.

At December 31, 2021, we expect to have approximately 22 million gallons of priced purchase commitments and physical inventory hedged with a futures contract or swap. If the wholesale price of heating oil increased $1 per gallon, our near term liquidity in December would be reduced by $22.0 million.

At September 30, 2021, we had approximately 111,500 customers, or 33% of our residential customer base, on the balanced payment plan in which a customer’s estimated annual oil purchases and service contract fees are paid for in a series of equal monthly payments. Increases in wholesale prices could reduce our liquidity if we failed to recalculate the balanced payments on a timely basis or if customers resist higher balanced payments. These customers could possibly owe us more in the future than we had budgeted. Generally, customer credit balances are at their low point after the end of the heating season and at their peak prior to the beginning of the heating season.

Our hedging strategy may adversely affect our liquidity.

We purchase derivatives, futures and swaps from members of our lending group in order to mitigate exposure to market risk associated with our inventory and the purchase of home heating oil for price-protected customers.  Future positions require an initial cash margin deposit and daily mark to market maintenance margin, whereas options are generally paid for as they expire.  Mark-to-market exposure reduces our borrowing base and as such can reduce the amount available to us under our Credit Agreement. The highest mark to market reserve against our borrowing base for these derivative instruments with our lending group was $13.2 million, $20.2 million, and $22.7, during fiscal years 2021, 2020, and 2019 respectively.

We also purchase call options from members of our lending group to hedge the price of the products to be sold to our price-protected customers which usually require us to pay an upfront cash payment. This reduces our liquidity, as we must pay for the option before any sales are made to the customer. We further purchase futures contracts with members of our lending group in order to mitigate exposure to market risk associated with physical inventory. Our futures contracts require an initial cash deposit and maintenance margin for changes in the market value of the contracts.

Sudden and sharp oil price increases that cannot be passed on to customers may adversely affect our operating results.

Our industry is a “margin-based” business in which gross profit depends on the excess of sales prices per gallon over supply costs per gallon. Consequently, our profitability is sensitive to changes in the wholesale product cost caused by changes in supply or other market conditions. These factors are beyond our control and thus, when there are sudden and sharp increases in the wholesale cost of home heating oil and propane, we may not be able to pass on these increases to customers through increased retail sales prices. In an effort to retain existing accounts and attract new customers we may offer discounts, which will impact the net per gallon gross margin realized.

Significant declines in the wholesale price of home heating oil may cause price-protected customers to renegotiate or terminate their arrangements which may adversely impact our gross profit and operating results.

When the wholesale price of home heating oil declines significantly after a customer enters into a price protection arrangement, some customers attempt to renegotiate their arrangement in order to enter into a lower cost pricing plan with us or terminate their arrangement and switch to a competitor.  Under our current price-protected

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programs, approximately 39.0% and 6.0% of our residential customers are respectively categorized as being either ceiling or fixed as of September 30, 2021.

A significant portion of our home heating oil volume is sold to price-protected customers (ceiling and fixed) and our gross margins could be adversely affected if we are not able to effectively hedge against fluctuations in the volume and cost of product sold to these customers.

A significant portion of our home heating oil volume is sold to individual customers under an arrangement pre-establishing the ceiling sales price or a fixed price of home heating oil over a fixed period. When the customer makes a purchase commitment for the next period we currently purchase option contracts, swaps and futures contracts for a substantial majority of the heating oil that we expect to sell to these price-protected customers. The amount of home heating oil volume that we hedge per price-protected customer is based upon the estimated fuel consumption per average customer, per month. If the actual usage exceeds the amount of the hedged volume on a monthly basis, we could be required to obtain additional volume at unfavorable margins. In addition, should actual usage in any month be less than the hedged volume (including, for example, as a result of early terminations by fixed price customers), our hedging losses could be greater. Currently, we have elected not to designate our derivative instruments as hedging instruments under FASB ASC 815-10-05 Derivatives and Hedging, and the change in fair value of the derivative instruments is recognized in our statement of operations. Therefore, we experience volatility in earnings as these currently outstanding derivative contracts are marked to market and non-cash gains or losses are recorded in the statement of operations.

Our risk management policies cannot eliminate all commodity risk, basis risk, or the impact of adverse market conditions which can adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders. In addition, any noncompliance with our risk management policies could result in significant financial losses.

While our hedging policies are designed to minimize commodity risk, some degree of exposure to unforeseen fluctuations in market conditions remains. For example, we change our hedged position daily in response to movements in our inventory. Any difference between the estimated future sales from inventory and actual sales will create a mismatch between the amount of inventory and the hedges against that inventory, and thus change the commodity risk position that we are trying to maintain. Also, significant increases in the costs of the products we sell can materially increase our costs to carry inventory. We use our revolving credit facility as our primary source of financing to carry inventory and may be limited on the amounts we can borrow to carry inventory. Basis risk describes the inherent market price risk created when a commodity of certain grade or location is purchased, sold or exchanged as compared to a purchase, sale or exchange of a like commodity at a different time or place. Transportation costs and timing differentials are components of basis risk. For example, we use the NYMEX to hedge our commodity risk with respect to pricing of energy products traded on the NYMEX. Physical deliveries under NYMEX contracts are made in New York Harbor. To the extent we take deliveries in other ports, such as Boston Harbor, we may have basis risk. In a backward market (when prices for future deliveries are lower than current prices), basis risk is created with respect to timing. In these instances, physical inventory generally loses value as basis declines over time. Basis risk cannot be entirely eliminated, and basis exposure, particularly in backward or other adverse market conditions, can adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.

We monitor processes and procedures to reduce the risk of unauthorized trading and to maintain substantial balance between purchases and sales or future delivery obligations. We can provide no assurance, however, that these steps will detect and/or prevent all violations of such risk management policies and procedures, particularly if deception or other intentional misconduct is involved.

Our obligation to fund multi-employer pension plans to which we contribute may have an adverse impact on us.

We participate in a number of multi-employer pension plans for current and former union employees covered under collective bargaining agreements. The risks of participating in multi-employer plans are different from single-employer plans in that assets contributed are pooled and may be used to provide benefits to current and former employees of other participating employers. Several factors could require us to make significantly higher future contributions to these plans, including the funding status of the plan, unfavorable investment performance, insolvency or withdrawal of participating employers, changes in demographics and increased benefits to

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participants. Several of these multi-employer plans to which we contribute are underfunded, meaning that the value of such plans’ assets are less than the actuarial value of the plans’ benefit obligations.

We may be subject to additional liabilities imposed by law as a result of our participation in multi-employer defined benefit pension plans. Various Federal laws impose certain liabilities upon an employer who is a contributor to a multi-employer pension plan if the employer withdraws from the plan or the plan is terminated or experiences a mass withdrawal, potentially including an allocable share of the unfunded vested benefits in the plan for all plan participants, not just our retirees. Accordingly, we could be assessed our share of unfunded liabilities should we terminate participation in these plans, or should there be a mass withdrawal from these plans, or if the plans become insolvent or otherwise terminate.

While we currently have no intention of permanently terminating our participation in or otherwise withdrawing from any underfunded multi-employer pension plan, there can be no assurance that we will not be required to record material withdrawal liabilities or be required to make material cash contributions in the future to one or more underfunded plans, whether as a result of withdrawing from a plan, or of agreeing to any alternate funding option, or due to any of the other risks associated with being a participating employer in an underfunded plan. Any of these events could negatively impact our liquidity and financial results.

We rely on the continued solvency of our derivatives, insurance and weather hedge counterparties.

If counterparties to the derivative instruments that we use to hedge the cost of home heating oil sold to price-protected customers, physical inventory and our vehicle fuel costs were to fail, our liquidity, operating results and financial condition could be materially adversely impacted, as we would be obligated to fulfill our operational requirement of purchasing, storing and selling home heating oil and vehicle fuel, while losing the mitigating benefits of economic hedges with a failed counterparty. If one of our insurance carriers were to fail, our liquidity, results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely impacted, as we would have to fund any catastrophic loss. If our weather hedge counterparty were to fail, we would lose the protection of our weather hedge contract. Currently, we have outstanding derivative instruments with the following counterparties: Bank of America, N.A., Bank of Montreal, Cargill, Inc., Citibank, N.A., JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Key Bank, N.A., Toronto-Dominion Bank and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.  Our primary insurance carriers are American International Group, Woodbury Insurance Co., Inc. (our captive insurance subsidiary), and Munich Re Trading LLC., which is our weather hedge counterparty.

Risks Related to Our Legal and Environmental Activities

We are subject to operating and litigation risks that could adversely affect our operating results whether or not covered by insurance.

Our operations are subject to all operating hazards and risks normally incidental to handling, storing, transporting and otherwise providing customers with our products such as natural disasters, adverse weather, accidents, fires, explosions, hazardous material releases, mechanical failures and other events beyond our control. If any of these events were to occur, we could incur substantial losses because of personal injury or loss of life, severe damage to and destruction of property and equipment, and pollution or other environmental damage resulting in curtailment or suspension of our related operations. As a result, we may be a defendant in legal proceedings and litigation arising in the ordinary course of business. The Company records a liability when it is probable that a loss has been incurred and the amount is reasonably estimable.

As we self-insure workers’ compensation, automobile and general liability claims up to pre-established limits, we establish liabilities based upon expectations as to what our ultimate liability will be for claims based on our historical factors. We evaluate on an annual basis the potential for changes in loss estimates with the support of qualified actuaries. As of September 30, 2021, we had approximately $80.6 million of insurance liabilities. Other than matters for which we self-insure, we maintain insurance policies with insurers in amounts and with coverage and deductibles that we believe are reasonable and prudent.

However, there can be no assurance that the ultimate settlement of these claims will not differ materially from the assumptions used to calculate the liabilities or that the insurance we maintain will be adequate to protect us from all material expenses related to potential future claims for remediation costs and personal and property damage or that these levels of insurance will be available in the future at economical prices, any of which could have a material effect on our results of operations. Further, certain types of claims may be excluded from our insurance coverage. If

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we were to incur substantial liability and the damages are not covered by insurance or are in excess of policy limits, or if we incur liability at a time when we are not able to obtain liability insurance, then our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.

Our captive insurance company may not bring the benefits we expect.

Beginning October 1, 2016, we have elected to insure through a wholly-owned captive insurance company, Woodbury Insurance Co., Inc., certain self-insured or deductible amounts. We also continue to maintain our normal, historical, insurance policies with third party insurers. In addition to certain business and operating benefits of having a captive insurance company, we expect to receive certain cash flow benefits related to the timing of the tax deduction related to these claims. Such expected cash tax timing benefits related to coverage provided by Woodbury Insurance Co., Inc. may not materialize, or any cash tax savings may not be as much as anticipated.

Recent New York legislation has the potential to significantly negatively impact the Company’s New York operations.

On July 18, 2019, the State of New York passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (“CLCPA”). Among other things, the CLCPA sets out a series of emissions reduction, renewable energy, and energy storage goals to significantly reduce the use of carbon-based fossil fuels and eventually achieve net zero greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions in the state.  On August 14, 2020, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation released proposed regulations to limit statewide GHG emissions as a percentage of 1990 emissions to 60% by 2030 and to 15% by 2050.  Within four years after the effective date (by July 2023), the New York Department of Environmental Conservation must adopt regulations that, in part, include measures to reduce GHG emissions from sources that have a cumulatively significant impact on statewide GHG emissions.  Certain measures, such as reducing GHG emissions from fossil fuel-burning vehicles, boilers and furnaces, if adopted, could significantly negatively impact the Company’s New York State operations, which constitute a material portion of the Company’s business.  Other states in which the Company operates and that are material to the Company’s operations have adopted similar GHG laws or have otherwise announced GHG reduction targets. However, whether and in what manner the CLCPA or other states’ GHG laws or targets could impact the Company remains uncertain at this time.

Our results of operations and financial condition may be adversely affected by governmental regulation and associated environmental and regulatory costs.

Our business is subject to a wide range of federal, state and local laws and regulations related to environmental and other matters. Such laws and regulations have become increasingly stringent over time. Some state and local governments have enacted or are attempting to enact regulations and incentive programs encouraging the phase-out of the products that we sell in favor of products using electricity or other types of fuels, such as natural gas. We may experience increased costs due to stricter pollution control requirements or liabilities resulting from noncompliance with operating or other regulatory permits. New regulations, such as  those relating to underground storage, transportation, and delivery of the products that we sell, might adversely impact operations or make them more costly. In addition, there are environmental risks inherently associated with home heating oil operations, such as the risks of accidental releases or spills. We have incurred and continue to incur costs to remediate soil and groundwater contamination at some of our locations. We cannot be sure that we have identified all such contamination, that we know the full extent of our obligations with respect to contamination of which we are aware, or that we will not become responsible for additional contamination not yet discovered. It is possible that material costs and liabilities will be incurred, including those relating to claims for damages to property and persons and the environment.

There is increasing attention in the United States and worldwide concerning the issue of climate change and the effect of GHG emissions, in particular from the combustion of fossil fuels. Federal, regional and state regulatory authorities in many jurisdictions have begun taking steps to regulate GHG emissions. For example, as discussed above under “Risk Factor - Recent New York legislation has the potential to significantly negatively impact the Company’s New York operations,” the State of New York passed the CLCPA and other states have passed similar laws or have otherwise announced GHG reduction targets. Additionally, in October 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) under President Obama published the Clean Power Plan for the regulation of GHG emissions associated with the energy sector. Under President Trump, the EPA repealed the Clean Power Plan and issued the Affordable Clean Energy (“ACE”) Rule which, if implemented, would have resulted in

21


significantly less GHG reductions than would have been the case under the Clean Power Plan. On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated the ACE Rule. The repealed Clean Power Plan and vacated ACE Rule have not been replaced. It is likely, however, that any future regulatory program that caps emissions or imposes a carbon tax will increase costs for us and our customers, which could lead to increased conservation or customers seeking lower cost alternatives. We cannot yet estimate the compliance costs or business impact of potential national, regional or state GHG emissions reduction legislation, regulations or initiatives, since many such programs and proposals are still in development.

Our operations would be adversely affected if service at our third-party terminals or on the common carrier pipelines used is interrupted.

The products that we sell are transported in either barge, pipeline or in truckload quantities to third-party terminals where we have contracts to temporarily store our products. Any significant interruption in the service of these third-party terminals or on the common carrier pipelines used would adversely affect our ability to obtain product.

We depend on the use of information technology systems that have been and may in the future be a target of cyber-attacks.

We rely on multiple information technology systems and networks that are maintained internally and by third-party vendors, and their failure or breach could significantly impede operations. In addition, our systems and networks, as well as those of our vendors, banks and counterparties, may receive and store personal or proprietary information in connection with human resources operations, customer offerings, and other aspects of our business. A cyber-attack or material network breach in the security of these systems could include the exfiltration, or other unauthorized access or disclosure, of proprietary information or employee and customer information, as well as disrupt our operations or damage our information technology infrastructure or those of third parties.

For example, in July 2021, we detected a security incident that resulted in the encryption of certain of our information technology systems. Promptly upon discovery of the incident, we launched an investigation with the assistance of an outside cybersecurity firm, notified law enforcement, and took steps to address the incident and restore full operations. Although our investigation of the incident is ongoing, at this time we do not believe any personal information belonging to customers was involved. However, we believe that an unauthorized third party exfiltrated and/or accessed certain employee personal identifying information (“PII”) and/or protected health information (“PHI”) relating to employee health insurance plans and human resources information, residing on some of the affected systems. We have since restored full operational capacity and were able to continue to serve our customers without interruption. We are in the process of evaluating our existing information security measures and determining whether or where they can be strengthened.  Currently, we do not anticipate that this incident will have a material adverse effect on our business, operations or financial results.  However, we cannot be certain that that similar cyber-attacks will not occur in the future.

Cyber-attacks are increasing in their frequency, levels of persistence, and sophistication and intensity.  Furthermore, because the techniques used to obtain unauthorized access to, or to disrupt, information technology systems change frequently, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or implement security measures that would prevent them. We may also experience security breaches that may remain undetected for an extended period. If another cyber-attack were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could have a material adverse effect on our revenues and increase our operating and capital costs, which could reduce the amount of cash otherwise available for distribution. To the extent that a future cyber-attack, security breach or other such disruption results in a loss or damage to the Company’s data, or the disclosure of PII, PHI or other personal or proprietary information, including customer or employee information, it could cause significant damage to the Company’s reputation, affect relationships with its customers, vendors and employees, lead to claims against the Company, and ultimately harm our business. In addition, we may be required to incur additional costs to mitigate, remediate and protect against damage caused by cyber-attacks, security breaches or other such disruptions in the future. We may pay significantly higher insurance premiums to maintain cyber insurance coverage, and even if we are able to maintain cyber insurance coverage, it may not be sufficient in amounts and scope to cover all harm sustained by the Company in any future cyber-attack or other data security incident.

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Changes in tax laws or regulations may have a material adverse effect on our business, cash flow, financial condition or results of operations.

New income, sales, use or other tax laws, statutes, rules, regulations or ordinances could be enacted at any time, which could adversely affect our business operations and financial performance. Further, existing tax laws, statutes, rules, regulations or ordinances could be interpreted, changed, modified or applied adversely to us. For example, significant changes to the U.S. tax laws have been proposed, including, among others, an increase in the corporate tax rate and the imposition of an excise tax on the fair market value of stock that is repurchased by certain corporations. Changes to existing tax laws or the enactment of future reform legislation could have a material impact on our financial condition, results of operations and ability to pay distributions to our unitholders. It cannot be predicted whether or when tax laws, statutes, rules, regulations or ordinances may be enacted, issued, or amended that could materially and adversely impact our financial position, results of operations, or cash flows.

Risks Related to People and Competition

Conflicts of interest have arisen and could arise in the future.

Conflicts of interest have arisen and could arise in the future as a result of relationships between the general partner and its affiliates, on the one hand, and us or any of our limited partners, on the other hand. As a result of these conflicts the general partner may favor its own interests and those of its affiliates over the interests of the unitholders. The nature of these conflicts is ongoing and includes the following considerations:

 

The general partner’s affiliates are not prohibited from engaging in other business or activities, including direct competition with us.

 

The general partner determines the amount and timing of asset purchases and sales, capital expenditures, distributions to unitholders, unit repurchases, borrowings and reserves, each of which can impact the amount of cash, if any, available for distribution to unitholders, and available to pay principal and interest on debt and the amount of incentive distributions payable in respect of the general partner units.

 

The general partner controls the enforcement of obligations owed to us by the general partner.

 

The general partner decides whether to retain its counsel or engage separate counsel to perform services for us.

 

In some instances the general partner may borrow funds in order to permit the payment of distributions to unitholders.

 

The general partner may limit its liability and reduce its fiduciary duties, while also restricting the remedies available to unitholders for actions that might, without limitations, constitute breaches of fiduciary duty.

 

Unitholders are deemed to have consented to some actions and conflicts of interest that might otherwise be deemed a breach of fiduciary or other duties under applicable state law.

 

The general partner is allowed to take into account the interests of parties in addition to the Company in resolving conflicts of interest, thereby limiting its fiduciary duty to the unitholders.

 

The general partner determines whether to issue additional units or other of our securities.

 

The general partner determines which costs are reimbursable by us.

 

The general partner is not restricted from causing us to pay the general partner or its affiliates for any services rendered on terms that are fair and reasonable to us or entering into additional contractual arrangements with any of these entities on our behalf.

Our inability to identify qualified individuals for our workforce could slow our growth and adversely impact our ability to operate our business

Our success depends in part upon our ability to attract, motivate and retain a sufficient number of qualified employees to meet the needs of our business.  A number of factors may adversely affect the workforce available to us or increase labor costs, including high employment levels, federal unemployment subsidies, including

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unemployment benefits offered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other government regulations.  We have experienced and may continue to experience shortages of qualified individuals to fill these positions. Competition for qualified employees have caused us and may continue to cause us to pay higher wages and provide greater benefits. We place a heavy emphasis on the qualification and training of our personnel and spend a significant amount of time and money on training our team members. Any inability to recruit and retain qualified individuals may result in higher turnover and increased labor costs, and could compromise the quality of our service, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated staffing complexities for us. The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in aggressive competition for talent, wage inflation and pressure to improve benefits and workplace conditions to remain competitive. Maintaining adequate staffing in our customer-facing departments and hiring and training staff has been significantly complicated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business. Our existing wages and benefits programs, combined with the challenging conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the highly competitive wage pressure resulting from the labor shortage, may be insufficient to attract and retain the best talent. Our failure to recruit and retain employees in a timely manner or higher team member turnover levels all could affect our ability to service our customers leading to customer attrition, and we may experience higher than projected labor costs. In addition, we deliver our products primarily by truck.  We compete with other entities for drivers and service technicians’ labor, including entities that do not have seasonal businesses such as ours. The shortages of drivers, primarily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has caused an increase in the cost of transportation for us.  An overall labor shortage, lack of skilled labor, increased turnover or labor inflation, caused by COVID-19 or as a result of general macroeconomic factors, could have a material adverse impact on the company’s operations, results of operations, liquidity or cash flows.

A substantial portion of our workforce is unionized, and we may face labor actions that could disrupt our operations or lead to higher labor costs and adversely affect our business.

As of September 30, 2021, approximately 44% of our employees were covered under 58 different collective bargaining agreements. As a result, we are usually involved in union negotiations with several local bargaining units at any given time. There can be no assurance that we will be able to negotiate the terms of any expired or expiring agreement on terms satisfactory to us. Although we consider our relations with our employees to be generally satisfactory, we may experience strikes, work stoppages or slowdowns in the future. If our unionized workers were to engage in a strike, work stoppage or other slowdown, we could experience a significant disruption of our operations, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Moreover, our non-union employees may become subject to labor organizing efforts. If any of our current non-union facilities were to unionize, we could incur increased risk of work stoppages and potentially higher labor costs.

Risks Related to Ownership of Our Common Units

Cash distributions (if any) are not guaranteed and may fluctuate with performance and reserve requirements.

Distributions of available cash by us to unitholders will depend on the amount of cash generated, and distributions may fluctuate based on our performance. The actual amount of cash that is available will depend upon numerous factors, including:

 

profitability of operations,

 

required principal and interest payments on debt or debt prepayments,

 

debt covenants,

 

margin account requirements,

 

cost of acquisitions,

 

issuance of debt and equity securities,

 

fluctuations in working capital,

 

capital expenditures,

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units repurchased,

 

adjustments in reserves,

 

prevailing economic conditions,

 

financial, business and other factors,

 

increased pension funding requirements,

 

results of potential adverse litigation, and

 

the amount of cash taxes we have to pay in Federal, State and local corporate income and franchise taxes.

Our Credit Agreement imposes restrictions on our ability to pay distributions to unitholders, including the need to maintain certain covenants. (See the fifth amended and restated credit agreement and Note 13 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements—Long-Term Debt and Bank Facility Borrowings).

If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal controls, then we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud. As a result, current and potential unitholders could lose confidence in our financial reporting, which would harm our business and the trading price of our common units.

Effective internal controls are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports, prevent fraud and operate successfully as a public company. We may experience difficulties in implementing effective internal controls as part of our integration of acquisitions from private companies, which are not subject to the internal control requirements imposed on public companies. If we are unable to maintain adequate controls over our financial processes and reporting in the future or if the businesses we acquire have ineffective internal controls, our operating results could be harmed or we may fail to meet our reporting obligations. Ineffective internal controls over financial reporting could cause our unitholders to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which would likely have a negative effect on the trading price of our common units.

Risks Related to Our Indebtedness

Our substantial debt and other financial obligations could impair our financial condition and our ability to obtain additional financing and have a material adverse effect on us if we fail to meet our financial and other obligations.

At September 30, 2021, we had outstanding under our fifth amended and restated revolving credit facility agreement a $110.5 million term loan, $8.6 million under the revolver portion of our fifth amended and restated revolving credit facility agreement, $3.1 million of letters of credit, no hedge positions, and our availability was $171.5 million. In December 2019, the Company refinanced its five-year term loan and the revolving credit facility with the execution of the fifth amended and restated revolving credit facility agreement, which had the effect of increasing the amount due under our term loan to $130 million, correspondingly reduced the borrowings under the revolver portion of the fourth amended and restated revolving credit facility agreement and extended the term of the facility to December 2024.  (See the fifth amended and restated credit agreement and Note 13 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements—Long-Term Debt and Bank Facility Borrowings). Exclusive of the term loan, during the last three fiscal years we have utilized as much as $147.4 million of our Credit Agreement in borrowings, letters of credit and hedging reserve. Our substantial indebtedness and other financial obligations could:

 

impair our ability to obtain additional financing in the future for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions, unit repurchases or general partnership purposes;

 

have a material adverse effect on us if we fail to comply with financial and affirmative and restrictive covenants in our debt agreements and an event of default occurs that is not cured or waived;

 

require us to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow for principal and interest payments on our indebtedness and other financial obligations, thereby reducing the availability of our cash flow to fund working capital and capital expenditures;

 

expose us to interest rate risk because certain of our borrowings are at variable rates of interest;

25


 

 

limit our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industry in which we operate; and

 

place us at a competitive disadvantage compared to our competitors that have proportionally less debt.

If we are unable to meet our debt service obligations and other financial obligations, we could be forced to restructure or refinance our indebtedness and other financial transactions, seek additional equity capital or sell our assets. We might then be unable to obtain such financing or capital or sell our assets on satisfactory terms, if at all.

We are not required to accumulate cash for the purpose of meeting our future obligations to our lenders, which may limit the cash available to service the final payment due on the term loan outstanding under our Credit Agreement.

Subject to the limitations on restricted payments that are contained in our Credit Agreement, we are not required to accumulate cash for the purpose of meeting our future obligations to our lenders. As a result, we may be required to refinance the final payment of our term loan. Our ability to refinance the term loan will depend upon our future results of operation and financial condition as well as developments in the capital markets. Our general partner will determine the future use of our cash resources and has broad discretion in determining such uses and in establishing reserves for such uses, which may include but are not limited to:

 

complying with the terms of any of our agreements or obligations;

 

providing for distributions of cash to our unitholders in accordance with the requirements of our Partnership Agreement;

 

providing for future capital expenditures and other payments deemed by our general partner to be necessary or advisable, including to make acquisitions; and

 

repurchasing common units.

Depending on the timing and amount of our use of cash, this could significantly reduce the cash available to us in subsequent periods to make payments on borrowings under our Credit Agreement.

Restrictive covenants in our Credit Agreement may reduce our operating flexibility.

Our Credit Agreement contains various covenants that limit our ability and the ability of our subsidiaries to, among other things:

 

incur indebtedness;

 

make distributions to our unitholders;

 

purchase or redeem our outstanding equity interests or subordinated indebtedness;

 

make investments;

 

create liens;

 

sell assets;

 

engage in transactions with affiliates;

 

restrict the ability of our subsidiaries to make payments, loans, guarantees and transfers of assets or interests in assets;

 

engage in sale-leaseback transactions;

 

effect a merger or consolidation with or into other companies, or a sale of all or substantially all of our properties or assets; and

 

engage in other lines of business.

These restrictions could limit our ability to obtain future financings, make capital expenditures, withstand a future downturn in our business or the economy in general, conduct operations or otherwise take advantage of

26


business opportunities that may arise. Our Credit Agreement also requires us to maintain specified financial ratios and satisfy other financial conditions. Our ability to meet those financial ratios and conditions can be affected by events beyond their control, such as weather conditions and general economic conditions. Accordingly, we may be unable to meet those ratios and conditions.

Any breach of any of these covenants, failure to meet any of these ratios or conditions, or occurrence of a change of control would result in a default under the terms of the relevant indebtedness or other financial obligations to become immediately due and payable. If we were unable to repay those amounts, the lenders could initiate a bankruptcy proceeding or liquidation proceeding or proceed against the collateral, if any. If the lenders of our indebtedness or other financial obligations accelerate the repayment of borrowings or other amounts owed, we may not have sufficient assets to repay our indebtedness or other financial obligations.

Under our Credit Agreement, the occurrence of a “change of control” is considered a default. We may be unable to repay borrowings under our Credit Agreement if the indebtedness outstanding thereunder is accelerated following a change of control.

In the event of a change in control, we may not have the financial resources to repay borrowings under our Credit Agreement and may be unable to satisfy our obligations unless we are able to refinance or obtain waivers under our other indebtedness.

General Risk Factors

Disruptions in our supply chain and other factors affecting the delivery of our products and services could adversely impact our business.

A disruption within our supply chain network could adversely affect our ability to deliver our products and services in a timely manner, cause an increase in wholesale prices and a decrease in supply, lost sales, customer attrition, increased supply chain costs, or damage to our reputation. Such disruptions may result from weather-related events; natural disasters; international trade disputes or trade policy changes or restrictions; tariffs or import-related taxes; third-party strikes, lock-outs, work stoppages or slowdowns; shortages of supply chain labor, including truck drivers; shipping capacity constraints, including shortages of related equipment; third-party contract disputes; supply or shipping interruptions or costs; military conflicts; acts of terrorism; public health issues, including pandemics or quarantines (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) and related shut-downs, re-openings, or other actions by the government; civil unrest; or other factors beyond our control. Recently, U.S. ports, including those located on the East coast where we receive shipments of products, have been impacted by capacity constraints, port congestion and delays, periodic labor disputes, security issues, weather-related events, and natural disasters, which have been further exacerbated by the pandemic. Disruptions to our supply chain due to any of the factors listed above could negatively impact our financial performance or financial condition.

Hurricanes and other natural disasters and extreme weather conditions could also cause disruptions in the power grid, which could prevent our customers from operating their home heating oil systems, thereby reducing our sales. For example, on October 29, 2012, storm Sandy made landfall in our service area, resulting in widespread power outages that affected a number of our customers. Deliveries of home heating oil and propane were less than expected for certain of our customers who were without power for several weeks subsequent to storm Sandy.

Continuing inflation may hurt our sales margins and profitability.

Cost inflation including significant increases in wholesale product costs, labor rates, and domestic transportation costs have and could continue to impact profitability. Continued imbalances between supply and demand for these resources may continue to exert upward pressure on costs. Our ability to recover these cost increases through price increases may continue to lag the cost increases, resulting in downward pressure on our sales margins.

Energy efficiency and new technology may reduce the demand for our products and adversely affect our operating results.

Increased conservation and technological advances, including installation of improved insulation and the development of more efficient furnaces and other heating devices, have adversely affected the demand for our

27


products by retail customers. Future conservation measures or technological advances in heating, conservation, energy generation or other devices might reduce demand and adversely affect our operating results.

Economic conditions could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.

Uncertainty about economic conditions poses a risk as our customers may reduce or postpone spending in response to tighter credit, negative financial news and/or declines in income or asset values, which could have a material negative effect on the demand for our equipment and services and could lead to increased conservation, as we have seen certain of our customers seek lower cost providers. Inflationary economic conditions generally affect us by increasing the cost of employee wages and benefits, transportation costs, product and service cost, credit card processing fees and bad debt from higher selling prices, and borrowings under our credit facility.  Any increase in existing customers or potential new customers seeking lower cost providers and/or increase in our rejection rate of potential accounts because of credit considerations could increase our overall rate of net customer attrition. In addition, recessionary economic conditions could negatively impact the spending and financial viability of our customers; particularly our commercial motor fuel customers. As a result, we could experience an increase in bad debts from financially distressed customers, which would have a negative effect on our liquidity, results of operations and financial condition.

The risk of global terrorism and political unrest may adversely affect the economy and the price and availability of the products that we sell and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Terrorist attacks, political unrest and war may adversely impact the price and availability of the products that we sell, our results of operations, our ability to raise capital and our future growth. The impact that the foregoing may have on our industry in general, and on our business in particular, is not known at this time. An act of terror could result in disruptions of crude oil supplies, markets and facilities, and the source of the products that we sell could be direct or indirect targets. Terrorist activity may also hinder our ability to transport our products if our normal means of transportation become damaged as a result of an attack. Instability in the financial markets as a result of terrorism could also affect our ability to raise capital. Terrorist activity could likely lead to increased volatility in the prices of our products.

ITEM 1B.

UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

Not applicable.

ITEM 2.

PROPERTIES

We currently provide services to our customers in the United States in fourteen states and the District of Columbia, ranging from Maine to Maryland from 41 principal operating locations and 77 depots, 51 of which are owned and 67 of which are leased. As of September 30, 2021, we had a fleet of 1,201 truck and transport vehicles, the majority of which were owned, 1,246 service and 390 support vehicles, the majority of which were leased. Our obligations under our Credit Agreement are secured by liens and mortgages on substantially all of the Company’s and subsidiaries’ real and personal property.

ITEM 3.

We are involved from time to time in litigation incidental to the conduct of our business, but we are not currently a party to any material lawsuit or proceeding.

ITEM 4.

MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

Not applicable.

28


PART II

ITEM 5.

MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S UNITS AND RELATED MATTERS

The common units, representing limited partner interests in Star, are listed and traded on the New York Stock Exchange, Inc. (“NYSE”) under the symbol “SGU.”

The following tables set forth the range of the daily high and low sales prices per common unit and the cash distributions declared on each unit for the periods indicated.

 

 

 

SGU – Common Unit Price Range

 

 

Distributions Declared

 

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

per Unit

 

 

 

Fiscal

 

 

Fiscal

 

 

Fiscal

 

 

Fiscal

 

 

Fiscal

 

 

Fiscal

 

 

 

Year

 

 

Year

 

 

Year

 

 

Year

 

 

Year

 

 

Year

 

Quarter Ended

 

2021

 

 

2020

 

 

2021

 

 

2020

 

 

2021

 

 

2020

 

December 31,

 

$

9.98

 

 

$

9.79

 

 

$

9.07

 

 

$

8.91

 

 

$

0.1325

 

 

$

0.1250

 

March 31,

 

$

10.80

 

 

$

9.61

 

 

$

9.31

 

 

$

6.11

 

 

$

0.1325

 

 

$

0.1250

 

June 30,

 

$

12.03

 

 

$

8.97

 

 

$

10.10

 

 

$

7.00

 

 

$

0.1425

 

 

$

0.1325

 

September 30,

 

$

11.89

 

 

$

9.95

 

 

$

9.58

 

 

$

8.38

 

 

$

0.1425

 

 

$

0.1325

 

 

As of November 30, 2021, there were approximately 204 holders of record of common units.

There is no established public trading market for the Company’s 0.3 million general partner units.

Distribution Provisions

We are required to make distributions in an amount equal to our Available Cash, as defined in our Partnership Agreement, no more than 45 days after the end of each fiscal quarter, to holders of record on the applicable record dates. Available Cash, as defined in our Partnership Agreement, generally means all cash on hand at the end of the relevant fiscal quarter less the amount of cash reserves established by the Board of Directors of our general partner in its reasonable discretion for future cash requirements. These reserves are established for the proper conduct of our business (including reserves for future capital expenditures) for minimum quarterly distributions during the next four quarters and to comply with applicable laws and the terms of any debt agreements or other agreement to which we are subject. The Board of Directors of our general partner reviews the level of Available Cash each quarter based upon information provided by management.

According to the terms of our Partnership Agreement, minimum quarterly distributions on the common units accrue at the rate of $0.0675 per quarter ($0.27 on an annual basis). The information concerning restrictions on distributions required by Item 5 of this Report is incorporated by reference to Note 4 to the Company’s Consolidated Financial Statements - Quarterly Distribution of Available Cash. The Credit Agreement imposes certain restrictions on our ability to pay distributions to unitholders. In order to pay any distributions to unitholders or repurchase Common Units, the Company must maintain Availability (as defined in the Credit Agreement) of $45 million, 15.0% of the facility size of $300 million (assuming the non-seasonal aggregate commitment is in effect), on a historical pro forma and forward-looking basis, and a fixed charge coverage ratio of not less than 1.15 measured as of the date of repurchase. (See Note 13 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements—Long-Term Debt and Bank Facility Borrowings).

On October 21, 2021, we declared a quarterly distribution of $0.1425 per unit, or $0.57 per unit on an annualized basis, on all Common Units with respect to the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021, paid on November 9, 2021, to holders of record on November 1, 2021. The amount of distributions in excess of the minimum quarterly distribution of $0.0675, were distributed in accordance with our Partnership Agreement, subject to management incentive compensation plan. As a result, $5.5 million was paid to the Common Unit holders, $0.3 million to the general partner unit holders (including $0.2 million of incentive distribution as provided in our Partnership Agreement) and $0.2 million to management pursuant to the management incentive compensation plan which provides for certain members of management to receive incentive distributions that would otherwise be payable to the General Partner.

29


Common Unit Repurchase Plans and Retirement

Note 5 to the Consolidated Financial Statements concerning the Company’s repurchase of Common Units during the fiscal year ended September 30, 2021 is incorporated into this Item 5 by reference.

 

ITEM 6.

(RESERVED)

 

30


 

ITEM 7.

MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Disclosure

This Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Report”) includes “forward-looking statements” which represent our expectations or beliefs concerning future events that involve risks and uncertainties, including those associated with the severity and duration of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, the pandemic’s impact on the U.S. and global economies, the timing, scope and effectiveness of federal, state and local governmental responses to the pandemic, the effect of weather conditions on our financial performance, the price and supply of the products that we sell, the consumption patterns of our customers, our ability to obtain satisfactory gross profit margins, our ability to obtain new customers and retain existing customers, our ability to make strategic acquisitions, the impact of litigation, our ability to contract for our current and future supply needs, natural gas conversions, future union relations and the outcome of current and future union negotiations, the impact of current and future governmental regulations, including climate change, environmental, health, and safety regulations, the ability to attract and retain employees, customer credit worthiness, counterparty credit worthiness, marketing plans, cyber-attacks, inflation, global supply chain issues, labor shortages, general economic conditions and new technology. All statements other than statements of historical facts included in this Report including, without limitation, the statements under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and elsewhere herein, are forward-looking statements. Without limiting the foregoing, the words “believe,” “anticipate,” “plan,” “expect,” “seek,” “estimate,” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, we can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct and actual results may differ materially from those projected as a result of certain risks and uncertainties. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those set forth in this Report under the heading “Risk Factors” and “Business Strategy.” Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations (“Cautionary Statements”) are disclosed in this Report. Currently, one of the most significant factors, however, is the potential adverse effect of the current pandemic of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, on the financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and performance of the Company, its customers and counterparties, and the global economy and financial markets. The extent to which COVID-19 impacts us and our customers will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, including the scope, severity and duration of the pandemic, the actions taken to contain the pandemic or mitigate its impact, the direct and indirect economic effects of the pandemic and containment measures, among others. All subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements attributable to the Company or persons acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the Cautionary Statements. Unless otherwise required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise after the date of this Report.

Impact of COVID 19 - A Global Pandemic on our Operations and Outlook

In December 2019, there was an outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus (“COVID-19”). On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization characterized the outbreak of COVID-19 as a global pandemic and recommended containment and mitigation measures. The United States declared a national emergency concerning the outbreak, which adversely impacted global activity and contributed to significant declines and volatility in financial markets. Public health and governmental authorities nationally and in affected regions have taken and continue to take extraordinary and wide-ranging actions to contain and combat the outbreak and spread of COVID-19, including restrictions on travel and business operations, quarantines, and orders and similar mandates for many individuals to substantially restrict daily activities and for many businesses to curtail or cease normal operations.

To date, we have not experienced any supply chain issues impacting our ability to deliver petroleum products to our customers. However, we have experienced and may continue to see disruptions in the procurement of service and installation materials.  Since March 2020, we have implemented various measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as a majority of our office personnel working remotely.  While these measures have not significantly impacted our ability to serve our customers to date, these measures may become strained or result in service delays.

31


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to protect the safety and health of our workforce and our customers, we have expanded certain employee benefit programs and will incur additional operating costs such as sanitizing our facilities, providing personal protective equipment for our employees and providing IT infrastructure to allow many office, clerical, sales and customer service employees to work from home. At this time, we expect the annual cost of these undertakings to be approximately $2.0 million.

The decline in economic activity impacted our motor fuels business in the third and fourth quarters of fiscal 2020 as well as the first and second quarter of fiscal 2021. However, we did experience an increase in motor fuel volumes sold in the third and fourth quarter of fiscal 2021 compared to the third and fourth quarter of fiscal 2020. While it has not yet materially impacted our ability to serve our customers, a combination of continued higher than normal unemployment benefits and an increased desire of prospective employees to work from home has impacted our ability to fully staff our customer service, sales and other functions.  In addition, we expect that we will experience an increase in wage rates to fill these positions and we might need to adjust the current wage rates of existing employees.  We cannot predict how long this staffing issue will continue, but the shortage in conjunction with any kind of spike in customer activity could cause unacceptable delays in response times and increase customer losses.

As of September 30, 2021, we had accounts receivable of $99.7 million, of which $60.9 million was due from residential customers and $38.8 million due from commercial customers. Our ability to borrow from our bank group is based in part on the aging of these accounts receivable. If past due balances that do not meet the eligibility tests as found in our fifth amended and restated credit agreement increase from historic levels, our future ability to borrow would be reduced.

The Company has taken advantage of certain tax and legislative actions which permitted the Company to defer certain calendar 2020 payroll tax withholdings to calendar 2021 and 2022; approximately half of which were paid in fiscal 2021.

The extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operational and financial performance, including our ability to execute our business strategies and initiatives, will depend on future developments, including the duration and spread of COVID-19 and related restrictions on travel and general mobility, the price of petroleum products and the timing, scope and effectiveness of federal, state and local governmental responses, all of which are uncertain and cannot be predicted. An extended period of global supply chain and economic disruption caused by COVID-19 and its variants could materially affect our business, results of operations, access to sources of liquidity and financial condition.

Impact on Liquidity of Increases and Decreases in Wholesale Product Cost

Our liquidity is adversely impacted in times of increasing wholesale product costs, as we must use more cash to fund our hedging requirements as well as the increased levels of accounts receivable and inventory. This may result in higher interest expense as a result of increased working capital borrowing to finance higher receivables and/or inventory balances. We may also incur higher bad debt expense and credit card processing costs as a result of higher selling prices as well as higher vehicle fuel costs due to the increase in energy costs.  While our liquidity is impacted by initial margin requirements for new future positions used to hedge our inventory, it can also be adversely impacted by sudden and sharp decreases in wholesale product costs, due to the increased margin requirements for futures contracts.  Likewise, our liquidity and collateral requirements are impacted by the fluctuating cost of options and swaps used to manage the market risks associated with our inventory and protected price customers.

32


Liquid Product Price Volatility

Volatility, which is reflected in the wholesale price of liquid products, including home heating oil, propane and motor fuels, has a larger impact on our business when prices rise. Consumers are price sensitive to heating cost increases, which can lead to increased gross customer losses. As a commodity, the price of home heating oil is generally impacted by many factors, including economic and geopolitical forces, and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, and is closely linked to the price of diesel fuel. The volatility in the wholesale cost of diesel fuel as measured by the New York Mercantile Exchange (“NYMEX”), for the fiscal years ending September 30, 2017, through 2021, on a quarterly basis, is illustrated in the following chart (price per gallon):

 

 

 

Fiscal 2021 (a)

 

 

Fiscal 2020

 

 

Fiscal 2019

 

 

Fiscal 2018

 

 

Fiscal 2017

 

Quarter Ended

 

Low

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

 

High

 

December 31

 

$

1.08

 

 

$

1.51

 

 

$

1.86

 

 

$

2.05

 

 

$

1.66

 

 

$

2.44

 

 

$

1.74

 

 

$

2.08

 

 

$

1.39

 

 

$

1.70

 

March 31

 

 

1.46

 

 

 

1.97

 

 

 

0.95

 

 

 

2.06

 

 

 

1.70

 

 

 

2.04

 

 

 

1.84

 

 

 

2.14

 

 

 

1.49

 

 

 

1.70

 

June 30

 

 

1.77

 

 

 

2.16

 

 

 

0.61

 

 

 

1.22

 

 

 

1.78

 

 

 

2.12

 

 

 

1.96

 

 

 

2.29

 

 

 

1.37

 

 

 

1.65

 

September 30

 

 

1.91

 

 

 

2.34

 

 

 

1.08

 

 

 

1.28

 

 

 

1.75

 

 

 

2.08

 

 

 

2.05

 

 

 

2.35

 

 

 

1.45

 

 

 

1.86

 

 

a)

On November 30, 2021, the NYMEX ultra low sulfur diesel contract closed at $2.06 per gallon or $0.27 per gallon higher than the average of $1.79 in Fiscal 2021.

Income Taxes   

Book versus Tax Deductions

The amount of cash flow generated in any given year depends upon a variety of factors including the amount of cash income taxes required, which will increase as depreciation and amortization decreases. The amount of depreciation and amortization that we deduct for book (i.e., financial reporting) purposes will differ from the amount that the Company can deduct for Federal tax purposes. The table below compares the estimated depreciation and amortization for book purposes to the amount that we expect to deduct for Federal tax purposes, based on currently owned assets. While we file our tax returns based on a calendar year, the amounts below are based on our September 30 fiscal year, and the tax amounts include any 100% bonus depreciation available for fixed assets purchased.  However, this table does not include any forecast of future annual capital purchases. 

Estimated Depreciation and Amortization Expense

 

(in thousands) Fiscal Year

 

Book

 

 

Tax

 

2021

 

$

34,457

 

 

$

39,473

 

2022