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This Under-the-Radar Infrastructure Stock Should Be on Your Radar

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® and Jason Hall - Sep 22, 2021 at 7:33AM

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It might not be a household name, but it could be a big winner over the next decade and beyond.

In a recent episode of The Rank on Fool Live, some of our experts shared their top infrastructure stocks. In this clip, recorded on Sept. 13, longtime Fool.com contributor Jason Hall discusses why NV5 Global ( NVEE 0.51% ) is one under-the-radar infrastructure stock you might want to put on your watch list. 

Jason Hall: So, this is a really interesting company. Tell me if I'm wrong here, but this might be the most below under-the-radar stock of all of these stocks and for a couple of reasons. Number one, it's a small business compared to the global scale. I think every one of these other stocks, well I guess Union Pacific is the closest to a domestic company, but they do business in all over North America. This is a pretty small business, and also they're not a household name because of what they do.

This is a company that's mainly in the infrastructure engineering, project management space and the name NV5 comes from five different disciplines in the construction and engineering industry. It might be time to rename the business NV6 because one of the things that's happened over the past two or three years is they've made some investments and they've started acquiring and growing their geospatial business and where that comes in as you think about geospatial work is if you think about the ability to measure and observe from the air. If you think about using drones to monitor power lines, if you think about in the desert southwest and really the whole midwestern U.S. with wildfires. The ability to provide services to utility companies, to large land managers to make sure they're managing fire risk, things like that, and also just having better, more accurate and topographical information. It's a really interesting, growing business.

Now, here's the thing that I like about this business and its opportunities. Because it participates in so much of the engineering, project management side of the infrastructure industry. It's really, really well positioned as more money begins to flow into developing infrastructure, not just in the U.S. Here in the U.S., we anchor on this. Our infrastructure is old, it's outdated, we need to spend lots of money to modernize it, we need to expand it. But then you move outside of the U.S., you get into Southeast Asia, you look at Africa, you look at a lot of other parts of the world, India. There is just massive need to grow the infrastructure. This global, middle class boom, we're in this boom, really. It's only been a few years ago, the global population, more than 50% of the global population moved into the middle class.

Over the next decade, we're going to add about a billion people to the global middle class. You know what they want to do? Spend their disposable income on things that make their lives better. Those things require infrastructure. A lot of that money goes to steel and concrete and that kind of thing, but there's a pretty good portion of that goes to the companies that design those projects, that manage the installation and the build. That's where NV5 comes in. Here's the biggest risks to the business, I want to highlight this. That is their model, this is a business model that's largely built on acquisitions. That is the simplest way maybe to grow, but it's also the hardest way to effectively grow and stay lean as a business and continue to add per share value and grow your per share earnings and cash flows and have a pretty good model.

The CEO of the business is the founder, he owns about a quarter of the business. He spent the past 25 or 30 years refining a process that really rigorous about wringing out costs, leveraging the scale of having the same back office for all of these businesses that they bring in. They create good incentives for the people that own and run the companies they acquire to stay around and to run them when they bring them in. So far, the process has worked really, really well. The CEO is also a little bit older, I think he's around 70 or 71, so there's some risk that there's really important individual that's played a big role in the company's success could retire. He could stay there for another 10 years, could be a Buffett and stay there until he is in his 90s, but we don't know if that's what he wants to do. Already in the 70s, there is some risk there.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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