The Biden administration recently unveiled an initial draft for an infrastructure spending bill valued at nearly $2.3 trillion to be spent over the next decade. Aging transportation and manufacturing sectors are in line for a boost, but as could be expected from a proposal this large, there are a lot of areas of the economy that will be affected -- including some areas not traditionally thought of as "infrastructure" but nonetheless important in today's digital economy.
Three stocks that could benefit if an infrastructure spending bill is passed later this year (likely no sooner than this summer) are NVIDIA (NVDA -3.19%), Cerner (CERN), and Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A -0.87%) (BRK.B -0.79%). Let's find out how.
1. NVIDIA: Better computing, better energy efficiency, and more R&D
NVIDIA has been on a tear for the last couple of years. The company designs chips that enable advanced video game graphics and computing accelerators in data centers (for applications like AI). These are all long-term secular growth trends working in NVIDIA's favor, but a modern infrastructure development plan could make the winds filling the company's sails blow even stronger.
For one thing, the GPUs (graphics processing units) that NVIDIA specializes in don't just accelerate computing power in data centers, they also reduce energy consumption. As organizations rely more heavily on digital operations, reducing how much power they need fits in with the Biden administration's focus on updating America's aging power grid ($100 billion earmarked for electrical infrastructure).
And for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint, building data centers and increasing access to cloud computing and remote work is a fantastic way to do that. After all, less commuting for employees means reduced emissions, a more efficient workforce, and a boost for a business's bottom line. NVIDIA is a key ingredient in enabling all of the above.
Additionally, the initial infrastructure proposal calls for $180 billion to support new research and development into technology like AI and $100 billion for modern workforce education and training. NVIDIA is a top researcher in AI and has millions of developers utilizing its ecosystem of products and services. It could pick up millions more in the decade ahead if the U.S. starts funneling cash into these initiatives supporting the future of computing work.
With a market cap of $380 billion, NVIDIA is already the second-largest publicly traded semiconductor company in the world, behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing. But chips are only increasing in importance as the digital economy takes over. These basic building blocks of tech aren't slowing down anytime soon, and NVIDIA has a long runway of growth ahead of it -- one that could accelerate if an infrastructure plan gets okayed.
2. Cerner: A massive boost for the care economy
America has an aging population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, adults over age 65 will outnumber children under age 18 by the year 2034 -- and the divide between the number of elderly and the number of children is expected to widen after 2034 for the foreseeable future. Thus, a linchpin of Biden's spending bill is the "caretaking economy."
Specifically, $400 billion (over 17% of the entire infrastructure bill) is being proposed to expand home- and community-based care for elderly and disabled people. There are some items in the proposal that will be up for polarizing political debate, like minimum wage increases and expansion of Medicaid, but for our discussion here, the focus on building tech infrastructure to support better care is noteworthy.
Companies like Cerner could be poised to benefit. Cerner provides IT solutions for the massive healthcare industry -- including for long-term care agencies and for arms of the government that support caregivers.
More efficient operations enabled by digital systems are key to expanding more personalized care. Cerner has a wide range of software products, from health system data analytics to patient care management. Helping the healthcare industry get up to speed with technology has been a long process that still needs a lot of work, but Cerner has steadily grown its revenue over the last few years.
COVID-19 created the first annual decline in sales since the Great Recession of 2007-09 for the company, but Cerner expects to return to growth in 2021.
If the caretaking economy, and related spending for America's aging population, get some extra federal support, Cerner could see an influx of new business as health providers hire new workers and look for new software systems to boost efficiency and positive care outcomes. And with a market cap of under $23 billion, Cerner is still a small business in the grand scheme of things. There's plenty of upside here for this healthcare technologist.
3. Berkshire Hathaway: Help for transportation and crumbling logistics infrastructure
Not to be forgotten from the Biden administration's proposal are, of course, those items we usually think of with the word "infrastructure": Highways, roads, bridges, airports, rail systems, and public transit. Though these physical structures were part of America's development in the 19th and 20th centuries, they still will fulfill critical functions in the digital era of the 21st century. Many of them are in dire need of fixing. The total price tag under Joe Biden's first draft clocks in at $621 billion.
Spending of such epic proportions will be doled out a lot of different ways, but a great way to play the whole spending surge could be Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. Railroad and transportation holdings feature prominently in Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio of subsidiary businesses -- including America's largest railroad, BNSF, and privately held Pilot gas stations and big rig truck service stations. Manufacturing (like auto parts company Precision Castparts) is also a big piece of Berkshire. And there's the company's sprawling energy and utility business, which includes sizable holdings in renewable energy projects.
Buffett's investment vehicle is already a massive enterprise valued at nearly $620 billion, but it could capture billions of additional dollars in the next decade if the U.S. embarks on an old-school road, rail, and energy update program. And Berkshire has a proven track record of turning sales into profitable returns for shareholders. In fact, now could be the right time to bet on the stock. Though it's already such a massive conglomerate, it's trading at historically low valuations -- which led to Berkshire Hathaway stock being Buffett's largest stock purchase last year.
This is no high-growth stock, but there is plenty of room for it to run higher the next few years -- especially if an infrastructure bill passes. It's not too much of a stretch to say this could be the next company to fetch a $1 trillion-plus valuation during the 2020s as America's forgotten physical structures and transportation get some much-needed attention.