Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (NYSE:BIP) has been a wealth-creating matching since its formation just over a decade ago. In the last 10 years, the global infrastructure operator has generated an average annualized total return of 17%, pulverizing the S&P 500's 9% average annual total return during that timeframe.
However, this year the company seems to have run out of fuel as it's stock value is roughly flat after factoring in the spinoff/stock split that created Brookfield Infrastructure Corporation (NYSE:BIPC). That might have investors wondering if the company's wealth-creating days are in the rearview mirror. Here's a look at the case for and against buying Brookfield Infrastructure these days.
The Brookfield Infrastructure buy thesis
Brookfield Infrastructure has grown steadily over the past decade. Since 2009, the company has expanded its funds from operations (FFO) at a 15% compound annual rate, enabling it to grow its dividend at an 11% yearly pace. Powering that above-average growth has been Brookfield's ability to make needle-moving acquisitions.
Brookfield expects that upward trend to continue in the coming years. The company estimates that it has enough embedded organic growth drivers to support 6% to 9% annual FFO growth. Powering that forecast is a combination of inflationary price increases on its existing contracts, volume growth as the global economy expands, and investments in capital projects to expand its operations. These organic growth drivers alone support Brookfield's view that it can increase its 4.3%-yielding dividend at a 5% to 9% yearly pace.
Meanwhile, acquisitions could fuel even faster growth. The company is currently working to invest $500 million into a telecom towers portfolio in India. Meanwhile, it sees opportunities to acquire infrastructure assets from governments and industrial companies as they de-lever their balance sheets. It could also make deals in the U.S. midstream sector following this year's market upheaval and build out 5G networks. Brookfield has a strong balance sheet to make these outside investments, which it will likely complement with asset sales.
The case against buying Brookfield these days
One potential future headwind for Brookfield Infrastructure is its exposure to fossil fuels in its utilities and energy segments. The company owns several natural gas businesses -- including pipelines, storage facilities, and processing plants -- and a major coal export terminal. With fossil fuels losing ground to renewables, these assets could struggle to grow their cash flow in the future.
Given those concerns, Brookfield is already looking at unloading the coal terminal via an outright sale or initial public offering. However, it has continued buying gas-related assets in recent years and would like to acquire more given how cheaply they trade because of all the sector's volatility. That focus could weigh on its future results, especially if the costs for carbon-free replacement technologies like hydrogen and battery storage keep falling.
Another concern with Brookfield is its exposure to more volatile economies like Brazil and India. When global trade slows, it tends to have an outsized impact on its results in those regions. For example, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, foreign currencies like the Brazilian real were quite volatile in the second quarter, with it tumbling 27%. That reduced Brookfield's FFO by $30 million, or by about 8%. If emerging economies like those take a while to recover from the current slump, Brookfield's results could remain under pressure.
Brookfield should have plenty of power to maintain its market-beating ways
While Brookfield has underperformed this year -- due in part to Brazil's issues -- that trend should reverse course as the global economy improves. Meanwhile, Brookfield has lots of growth up ahead as it benefits from its embedded organic growth and makes more acquisitions. Those sources have the potential of fueling upper-single-digit annual earnings and dividend growth. Add that to the company's already above-average 4%-yielding dividend, and it could generate total annual returns in the low-to-mid teens. That could enable it to keep beating the market, making it a buy-worthy stock.