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ONEOK Partners L.P. (OKS - Analyst Report) said that its board of directors approved a 1.5 cent increase in the quarterly cash distribution rate. The new distribution rate of 61 cent per unit will be effective from the fourth quarter of 2011 and is scheduled to be paid on February 14, 2012, to unitholders of record as of January 13, 2012.

The new annualized cash distribution rate of the partnership is $2.44 per unit, reflecting a growth 2.5% from the prior rate of $2.38 per unit. ONEOK Partners has consistently increased its distribution rate growing by 53% from April 2006.

The current hike in the distribution rate actually surprised the partnership’s announcement in September 2011 to increase the cash distribution rate by 1cent per quarter in 2011.

The partnership has plans to increase the distribution rate by 2 cents per quarter in 2012, subject to the approval of its board of directors and general partner and attain a 15% to 20% annual distribution growth in 2013 and 2014.

ONEOK has made plans to invest $2.7 billion to $3.3 billion in growth projects through 2014. We expect the returns from these initiatives to facilitate the distribution of excess cash among its unitholders.

ONEOK Partners continues to perform well and the strong performance from its natural gas liquid segment has propelled it to revise its distributable cash flow range upwards for 2011. The partnership now expects its distributable cash flow in the range of $935 million to $955 million versus the previous forecast of $850 million to $880 million.

We are encouraged to see the partnership doing so well and sharing the benefits with its unit holders through a regular increase in the cash distribution rate. ONEOK Partners currently retains a Zacks #2 Rank, which translates into a short-term Buy rating. The company competes with El Paso Corp. and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. (KMP - Analyst Report).

Tulsa, Oklahoma-based ONEOK Partners is a leader in the gathering, processing, storage and transportation of natural gas in the U.S. and owns one of the nation's premier natural gas liquids (NGL) systems, connecting NGL supply in the Mid-Continent and Rocky Mountain regions with key market centers.

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