Data is the oil of the digital economy. Like crude over the last couple of centuries, information is what drives the new economy forward. The similarities don’t stop there because, like oil, data relies on infrastructure to transform it from its raw form into something more useful. However, instead of pipelines, processing plants, and storage terminals, data needs fiber optic cables, telecommunication towers, and data centers to keep the digital economy humming along.
That leaves a massive opportunity for companies to build out and operate data infrastructure. One of the many focused on this space is Brookfield Infrastructure (NYSE:BIP)(NYSE:BIPC), which has been pouring capital into acquiring and developing data infrastructure in recent years. It expects that trend to accelerate and last for many decades, given the opportunity it sees ahead for data infrastructure.
A century-long investment opportunity
The oil industry spent more than a century building out the infrastructure needed to support the economy’s ever-growing thirst for crude. Brookfield sees a similar megatrend investment opportunity in data as the economy consumes an increasing amount of digital information.
Overall, two factors drive the need for more infrastructure investments in the near-term. First, the existing data infrastructure is aging. As a result, it’s struggling to keep up with growing global technology demand growth. Second, the telecom industry needs to replace existing networks with faster and leaner fiber infrastructure and prepare to support the roll-out of 5G technology. These upgrades will require an estimated $1 trillion of global capital investments over the next five years alone. Meanwhile, the longer-term investment opportunity is equally vast, likely to power steady growth for infrastructure companies.
Accelerating its investment strategy
Given the enormousness of the data infrastructure market opportunity, Brookfield plans to invest an increasing amount of capital into the sector over the next several years. It has been methodically building out a data infrastructure platform in recent years. Brookfield launched into this sector in late 2014 when it participated in a consortium to acquire a 50% stake in a French communication tower infrastructure business, investing $500 million into that $2.2 billion deal. Meanwhile, over the past three years, the company has invested about 20% of its $1.5 billion average annual growth capital spending (or roughly $300 million per year) into building its data infrastructure platform.
However, it has accelerated its investments in the sector this year, already spending half of its $1.7 billion growth investment on data infrastructure. The main drivers were a $150 million equity investment in a U.K. telecom business and a $600 million equity investment in an Indian telecom towers portfolio.
The company expects to continue allocating an outsized portion of its capital to expanding its data infrastructure operations over the next three to five years. In its view, it will increase its overall growth investment spending target to more than $2 billion per year. Meanwhile, it anticipates allocating 35% of that higher budget on data-related investments during that period, up from 20% of its lower investment rate during the previous three years.
Some of that shift is because many of its recent acquisitions included an embedded growth component. For example, there’s growth potential at its Indian tower portfolio as it builds additional towers to support its current tenant and add new ones to existing towers. Meanwhile, in late 2018, the company partnered with REIT Digital Realty (NYSE:DLR) to acquire Ascenty, a data center business in Latin America. When they bought the company, it had eight data centers in Brazil in operation and 14 total when including those under construction. It now has 22 in operation or under construction and has expanded its reach into Chile and Mexico.
Meanwhile, the other driver of the company’s accelerated investment in data will be additional acquisitions. Given the industry’s need for capital, Brookfield will likely focus on acquiring data infrastructure companies that need access to funding for organic expansion projects or to make bolt-on acquisitions. For example, Brookfield tried to buy Cincinnati Bell (NYSE:CBB) earlier this year to accelerate the expansion of its fiber network. While a rival infrastructure fund outbid it for that company, there’s no shortage of capital-starved data infrastructure companies out there, suggesting it should have plenty of opportunities to acquire other companies or business units.
An ultra-long-term investment opportunity
Because Brookfield Infrastructure believes we’re still in the early innings of a data infrastructure investment megacycle, the company anticipates that it will have an increasing amount of compelling investment opportunities in the sector over the next several years, which is driving it to boost its spending target and allocation to the space. That bright outlook suggests that the company should have no problem continuing to generate outsized total returns for its investors, making it the ultimate buy-and-hold stock to create long-term wealth.
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Car Insurance for Canadian
Car insurance is vital, like snow days and maple syrup. Part of the Canadian experience. Not all countries need insurance policies by regulation as Canada does; the concept of a pay-as-you-go fuel tax has also been used as a substitute for traditional auto insurance in some areas. But, no matter how important it is, investing in the service is never the wrong decision. Insurance will save motorists from the economic burden of the ultimate inevitability of the road: accidents. They’re going to happen to everybody, no matter their experience or ability. Driving, like every other aspect of human life, is naturally a human mistake.
Also, the most experienced driver can be distracted in our current driving climate. With a reputable insurer, financial stability is only one thing to think about. Between the radio, the billboards, and the careless children thrashing around in the back seat, a few minutes on the road will provide more means of diverting someone’s attention than a few hours in front of the TV. All it takes is a misconstrued stop on a slippery day or a neglected shoulder search to cause thousands of dollars of harm to your property or the property of others. If the accident’s cost exceeds the price of the vehicle that caused it, auto insurance will save the driver from financial ruin. The protection in an appropriate strategy protects drivers in ways that the airbag has never been able to do.
The security provided by insurance is so vital that it has been obligatory for any Canadian who hopes to get behind the wheel. However, some jurisdictions offer consumers a preference as to who is protected by their auto insurance. Coverage is always mandatory, but the strategy is malleable. The right of motorists to monitor their plans and coverage does not end with the business either. Car insurance premiums are affected by a variety of factors. While some of these items are beyond the control of motorists, such as age and gender, they can still make many choices to lower their prices. Choosing a reliable vehicle, traveling shorter distances, and having fewer tickets are items drivers can do to keep their car insurance premiums as low as possible.
Some drivers, particularly new ones, are wary of individualized rates – paying different amounts for other people. Insurance firms, though, are not swindlers or profit-seekers. They’re just trying to keep auto insurance prices as reasonable as possible. A car that leaves the garage twice a week is less likely to have an accident than a car that goes twice a day. Station wagons are more comfortable to fix than imported sports cars. Every person has different driving habits, so it only makes sense to have a foreign car insurance policy. Acquiring a car insurance policy is more than just making a deal; it is the start of a friendship that will help the driver out in the toughest of times.
Some provinces in Canada, where motorists have too many car insurance options, any additional information could save the insured motorist thousands of dollars. It pays to be updated. The right strategy will keep you safe when anything else doesn’t matter where you’re in Canada.
When it comes to investing, don't believe everything you see on TV – TheChronicleHerald.ca
Interest in investing is hitting new highs. Discount brokers are flooded with applications and trading volumes are surging. Despite this renewed focus, some misunderstandings persist about the realities of investing.
To illustrate, let’s deconstruct an investment conversation that you might have with a friend, colleague, or advisor. It goes like this.
“A guy on TV says the economy is strong and stocks are going up. It seems like a good time to invest. I don’t see much downside so I’m buying high-dividend stocks for my RRSP.”
A guy on TV
Many investors think there are people who know where the market is going. Experts who know something the rest of us don’t. The reality is, they don’t. Their insights may be interesting and unique, but any conclusions related to market timing aren’t worth the cup of coffee you’re drinking. It’s impossible to call the market level a week, month or even year from now with enough consistency to be useful. Stock prices are determined by a myriad of factors, many of which we’re unaware of until after they’ve emerged.
The economy looks good. I’m buying.
At the core of most market calls is an economic forecast. This is unfortunate because the connection between what the economy is doing and where the stock market is going is flimsy at best. It’s true that economic activity affects corporate profits, which ultimately drive stock prices, but the relationship is sloppy and unpredictable. Consider the last decade — we had the slowest economic recovery in history and yet profit margins were at or near record levels throughout, as were stock prices.
It bears repeating. Mr. Market is not paying attention to today’s economic headlines. He’s focusing on what the news might be in 12 to 18 months. The corporations you’re investing in aren’t reading the headlines either. They’re too busy trying to move their businesses ahead.
A good time to invest
For an investor with a multi-decade time frame, anytime is a good time. Some points in time, however, will be more prospective than others. These are periods when returns are projected to be higher based on fundamentals like rising profitability, low valuations and/or extremely negative investor sentiment. To be clear, these factors won’t tell you what’s about to happen, but will provide a tailwind over the next three to five years.
Not much downside
When you own a stock, the range of possible outcomes is always wider than you expect. It’s hard to conceive of a holding going down 20, 30 or 40 per cent, especially when things are going well. Unfortunately, recent price moves have no predictive value, they just provide false comfort.
The future for a stock that has recently done well is just as uncertain as one that hasn’t. Indeed, it may be riskier because its price-to-earnings multiple is higher (if profits haven’t kept up with the stock price), its dividend yield is lower and shareholders’ risk aversion, a necessary ingredient for good returns, has melted into complacency.
The higher the better
We all love dividends, but too many investors choose stocks based solely on yield. This is a problem because yield is not a measure of value for a stock like it is for a bond. A company’s worth is derived from it’s potential to earn profits into the future. Dividends are simply the portion of those earnings that get distributed to shareholders.
Yield-obsessed investors often downplay the importance of the stocks’ second source of return — price appreciation. Ask yourself the question: What would you rather have, a $10 stock yielding five per cent that’s worth $8, or a $10 stock with a three per cent yield that’s worth $12?
If you want to focus on dividend income, start with a list of stocks that have an acceptable yield. From there build a diversified portfolio of holdings that are trading at or below what they’re worth.
In your RRSP?
When asked, “What should I do in my RRSP (or TFSA),” I have only one answer. The most important thing driving your RRSP strategy is the strategy you’re pursuing for your overall portfolio (including other registered accounts, taxable accounts, pensions and income properties). Anything you do in your RRSP has to roll up into your household asset mix. In that vein, RRSP contributions are a wonderful tool for adjusting your overall portfolio because transactions have no tax consequences.
Investing is hard enough without basing decisions on false premises. If you find yourself listening to someone pontificate about where the market is going, try to change the subject or look for an escape.
Tom Bradley is
chair and chief investment officer
at Steadyhand Investment Funds, a company that offers individual investors low-fee investment funds and clear-cut advice. He can be reached at
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020
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