Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

3 Things Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P.'s CEO Wants You to Know About What's Ahead in 2018

By Matthew DiLallo - Feb 16, 2018 at 6:02AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

The high-yielding global infrastructure company is taking a cautious approach.

Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP 3.19%) recently finished up a fantastic year, delivering 14% earnings growth thanks in part to a needle-moving acquisition. However, it has some headwinds to overcome to maintain that momentum this year. That was evident from comments by CEO Sam Pollock on Brookfield's most recent conference call. Here are three things he wanted investors to know about what lies ahead for the company. 

1. The M&A markets are frothy, but we're still finding deals

Last year, Brookfield Infrastructure Partners completed $1.7 billion of acquisitions, led by its $1.3 billion purchase of a stake in a natural gas pipeline system in Brazil. However, its M&A pipeline looks a little bare at the moment. That's because "global M&A activity remains frothy," according to Pollock, which is why the company has "been disciplined and focused on situations where we can leverage our competitive advantages to invest for value."

A man in a hard hat standing near a stack of pipelines.

Image source: Getty Images.

But while the pipeline isn't as full as it was a year ago, it's not empty, either. In November, the company and its partners signed an agreement to acquire a controlling stake in the second-largest natural gas distribution system in Colombia. The partnership is buying the company in stages, and Brookfield could invest up to $170 million if the group acquires full ownership of the business.

2. Organic growth will be a much more meaningful driver going forward

Acquisitions have been the primary fuel driving growth over the company's history. In fact, Pollock pointed out that "over the past five years, roughly 80% of the equity for growth initiatives went into acquisitions, while approximately 20% went to organic growth projects." However, he said that "in the next 24 months, we estimate deploying approximately $1 billion of equity into organic growth initiatives, which on an annualized basis is more than double the levels we invested at less than five years ago."

He further noted that "our goal over the next several years is to generate 30% to 40% of our investment activity through organic projects, which typically generates the strongest risk-adjusted returns to our business." In other words, while M&A will remain important, organic growth should help move the needle more in the future, which would help smooth out results since acquisitions tend to be lumpy. 

Two people shaking hands superimposed over an electricity-generating facility.

Image source: Getty Images.

3. It might take time to put our war chest to use

Brookfield's acquisition-driven growth has enabled the company to increase its high-yielding payout by an 11% compound annual growth rate over the past decade. However, despite growing earnings 14% last year, Brookfield just boosted its distribution 8% for 2018. That's partially because its M&A pipeline has less visibility than usual and it recently signed a deal to sell its Transelec business for $1.3 billion. That sale will act as a headwind until Brookfield redeploys those proceeds, which is why it chose to be conservative with distribution growth this year.

That said, Pollock stated on the call that "to the extent that we are very successful in deploying capital," the company could make another midyear adjustment to the distribution since "we've done that in the past." Furthermore, he gave every indication that the company does have other deals in the works, noting that M&A activity is "very high" and as "strong as it's ever been." He said that it's casting a wide net for deals, including the telecom sector in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, building out its toll road business in India, and looking at ports in the U.S. as well as general infrastructure opportunities in the country. While competition for these assets remains high, and the company plans to stay disciplined, Pollock believes that "there may be some good opportunities ahead of us if we're patient."

Stay patient

Brookfield was coming off a banner year when a needle-moving acquisition powered double-digit earnings growth. However, with just one small deal in hand for 2018, it might not grow as quickly this year. As a result, investors need to keep their calm while the company invests more money into organic growth projects and finds the right acquisitions. That approach should eventually pay off and could power faster distribution growth in the coming years.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P. Stock Quote
Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P.
BIP
$38.22 (3.19%) $1.18

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
317%
 
S&P 500 Returns
112%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 06/30/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.