Last year was a transitional one for Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (NYSE:BIP). While the company's cash flow surged double digits overall, it didn't budge on a per-unit basis because the infrastructure giant sold an asset and issued more shares to help fund future growth. Those factors weighed on returns last year.
Brookfield Infrastructure's growth engine, however, seemed to start back up by the fourth quarter. That trend should have become even more apparent during the first quarter. Here's what to keep an eye on in that report to determine if that was the case.
Look for a noticeable boost from recent acquisitions
Brookfield has been actively reshuffling its portfolio over the past year. The company sold an electricity transmission business in Chile early last year and followed that up by agreeing to sell a stake in a toll road business in that same country this past January. It also lined up several acquisitions that should more than replace those lost earnings. The company closed a few of those transactions last year and anticipated completing a couple more during the first quarter. Because of that, investors should keep an eye on how those new additions performed during the first quarter.
One of the biggest deals was the acquisition of Enbridge's (NYSE:ENB) gathering and processing business in Western Canada, which it has renamed NorthRiver Midstream. Brookfield and its partners closed phase one of that 4.31 billion Canadian dollar ($3.2 billion) transaction in October. In addition to that, the company and its co-investors completed their CA$4.3 billion ($3.2 billion) acquisition of residential energy infrastructure company Enercare around that same time. Those two deals helped boost the earnings in Brookfield Infrastructure's energy segment by more than 60% during the fourth quarter. The company completed two more transactions earlier this year, investing $210 million to buy stakes in data centers in the U.S. and Australia. These acquisitions should help provide an even more significant boost to cash flow during the first quarter.
Check for progress on its remaining deals
Brookfield Infrastructure had several more transactions in various stages of completion that investors should watch this quarter. Digital Realty announced in early April that it closed its data center joint venture in South America with Brookfield. The company and its partners now control 49% of that entity, which will help drive growth in its data infrastructure segment in the coming quarters. Meanwhile, news reports out of India said that the company signed an agreement in mid-March to acquire the East West Pipeline in the country for $1.87 billion.
Aside from keeping an eye on the early integration work of those new additions, investors should also see if the company remains on track with closing the second phase of its Enbridge transaction by midyear. Brookfield's ability to quickly complete and integrate its latest additions will ensure that earnings continue growing.
See if the company has any more transactions lined up
Brookfield expects to remain active in the M&A market this year. The company noted on its fourth-quarter call that it hopes to sell between $1.5 billion and $2 billion of assets over the next 12 to 18 months to further bolster its financial profile. It already agreed to sell a stake in its Chilean toll road business and had five deals in various stages of the sales process as of the end of the fourth quarter.
In addition to selling assets, Brookfield has been actively looking for its next acquisitions. The company noted that it was pursuing opportunities in the U.S. midstream market like its deal with Enbridge. In addition to that, it was monitoring a couple of interesting transactions in Peru and Chile.
Brookfield aims to sell slower growth businesses and reinvest the proceeds into faster-growing opportunities. This strategy should enable the company to expand earnings at a higher rate in the future. That's why investors should see if the company made any progress on this front during the first quarter.
It could be a busy quarter
Brookfield should start seeing more of the benefits of its wheeling and dealing during the first quarter, as deals closed in recent months should begin paying dividends. However, it's far from finished with its maneuvering, which is why investors should keep a close eye on how well it's integrating recent additions, its progress on closing previously announced deals, and what else it has coming down the pipeline. Success in all these areas could enable the company to grow at an accelerated pace in the next few years.