The last two years have been a tough time for emerging markets. Most are suffering from a perfect storm of weak commodities, a strong U.S. dollar, poor fiscal policy, and global economic weakness, which have caused their economies to slow or even contract.
Nonetheless, a recovery appears underway. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index has bounced back in recent months to be up by 3% over the last year, and there are signs that economic growth is starting to gain momentum. This makes now the time for investors to add emerging markets exposure to their portfolios. One of the best means of doing so is with Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P. (TSX:BIP.UN)(NYSE:BIP).
Brookfield Infrastructure has embarked on a strategy of growing its business through a combination of organic growth and accretive acquisitions. The company is focused on boosting exposure to rapidly growing emerging economies.
It recently took advantage of depressed asset prices in Brazil caused by that nation’s economic crisis, which is the worst in a century. In partnership with a consortium, Brookfield Infrastructure acquired a 90% controlling interest in Nova Transportadora do Sudeste S.A. from deeply troubled Brazilian energy company Petróleo Brasileiro S.A.
This deal enhanced Brookfield Infrastructure’s exposure to Brazil by giving it control of the infrastructure supplying natural gas to Brazil’s core industrialized and most populous states: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Minas Gerais.
You see, demand for natural gas in Brazil can only rise once the economy starts to improve, which, according to some economists, could commence as early as 2017.
It also adds to Brookfield Infrastructure’s existing transportation assets in Brazil as well as its assets in other prominent emerging markets, including India, Peru, and Colombia.
These economies have a recent history of strong economic growth; when coupled with their rapidly growing populations, this will cause demand for critical infrastructure to grow at a rapid rate. Economic growth in Colombia and Peru is already picking up from the lows experienced during the commodities slump.
Then there is India, which is being touted as the next China. Not only did its economy grow at a faster rate than China in 2015, its latest reported GDP growth rates have been in excess of 7%. Recent economic reforms are causing the industry to expand at a rapid rate, and India’s population is expected to exceed China’s by 2022.
This rapid expansion will cause demand for critical infrastructure to grow at a tremendous rate, placing considerable pressure on existing services.
These pressures are the key reason for the global infrastructure gap, which the World Economic Forum estimates represents a US$1 trillion shortfall in spending on infrastructure globally. A sizeable portion of that shortfall is occurring in emerging economies, where governments are battling to raise sufficient revenues to meet the demand for basic public goods.
This provides significant growth opportunities for Brookfield Infrastructure; private investors are among the best positioned to fill the gap. Not only has it established a significant presence in some major emerging economies, but Brookfield Infrastructure possesses substantial expertise in the field and has access to the vast capital-raising potential of its parent Brookfield Asset Management Inc.
These factors combined with its strategy of actively recycling mature assets as well as focusing on organic growth and acquisitions endows it with considerable growth potential. This will support its targeted 5-9% annual increase in its distribution, ensuring that it can continue to reward investors with that attractive 5% yield.