Upstream master limited partnership (MLP) Linn Energy’s strategy to attract a broader array of investors is likely to inspire other companies in the space to follow suit, but competitors will take at least a few years to emerge, according to chief financial officer Kolja Rockov.

Linn established LinnCo, a vehicle that exists solely to hold units of the Linn MLP, as a means of raising additional equity capital. Linn then launched an initial public offering of LinnCo shares – in part to be used to raise funds for acquisitions – in October 2012.

The creation and sale of LinnCo has provided Linn with a number of benefits, not least of which is the option to use LinnCo shares to purchase independent producer Berry Petroleum in a $4.3 billion all-stock deal announced in February. “One of the uses was to use it as an acquisition currency for something like the Berry transaction,” Rockov told attendees of the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s Oil and Gas Investment Symposium in New York on Monday. The deal is expected to close in late June.

Expanded capacity to engage in deals like the Berry transaction is critical to Linn’s strategy of growth through acquisition. While organic growth previously played a larger role in boosting distributions, “quite frankly the acquisition pace has picked up so much that that’s really carrying the lion’s share of the growth story at Linn”, Rockov said.

But perhaps more importantly, other MLPs can use the same mechanism – creating and publicly offering their own equity-raising vehicles – to dramatically expand the pool of potential investors in the upstream MLP sector.

“Really, the driving force, if there really was one, was opening up a much larger market for us of folks that don’t want a K-1 at the end of the year,” Rockov said, referring to the Internal Revenue Service form used to report partnership income. “The universe of potential buyers for LinnCo is much bigger,” he said. “You get a broader market with a lower cost of capital.”

Rockov expects that other MLPs will follow suit. “It’s likely that ultimately people will try to emulate what we’re doing,” he said.

But competitors in the space may be slow to emerge. “We have at least a two-year head-start, if not a lot more,” he said. “It took us almost a year and a half, if not longer, to get LinnCo public,” and “you also have to have a track record where people are willing to accept your currency”.

“How many years that is, I don’t know, but hopefully during that time period we’ll have consolidated what we want to consolidate.”