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Specialist in Asia Pacific, Japan, China, India and South East Asia and Global Emerging Market equities.

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Our philosophy is very simple. We are constantly searching for high quality businesses and when we acquire them, we will work relentlessly with them to create long-term sustainable value through innovation, ESG-led and proactive asset management.

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Stewart Investors manage investment portfolios on behalf of our clients over the long term and have held shares in some companies for over 20 years. They launched their first investment strategy in 1988.

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Global Listed Infrastructure Monthly review and outlook

Global Listed Infrastructure Monthly review and outlook

A monthly review and outlook of the Global Listed Infrastructure sector.

Market review - as at December 2023

Global Listed Infrastructure ended the calendar year on a positive note, aided by a growing consensus that interest rate cuts were likely in 2024. The FTSE Global Core Infrastructure 50/50 index returned +4.4% in December, while the MSCI World index^ ended the month +4.9% higher.

The best performing infrastructure sectors were Other (+14%) and Airports (+8%). The ports, satellites and merchant power operators that make up the Other sector were led higher by EM port stocks. Airports were buoyed by positive regulatory developments for Mexican operators. The worst performing infrastructure sector was Energy Midstream (-1%), which dipped following strong gains earlier in the year. Declining oil and natural gas prices also weighed on sentiment towards the sector.

The best performing infrastructure region was Latin America (+10%), owing primarily to strong gains for Mexico’s airports. The worst performing infrastructure region was the UK (+1%), reflecting muted gains for its electric and water utility stocks. 

 

^ MSCI World Net Total Return Index (USD) is provided for information purposes only. Index returns are net of tax. Data to 31 December 2023. Source: First Sentier Investors / Lipper IM. All stock and sector performance data expressed in local currency terms. Source: Bloomberg. 

Market outlook and Strategy

The Portfolio invests in a range of listed infrastructure assets including toll roads, airports, railroads, utilities and renewables, energy midstream, wireless towers and data centres. These sectors share common characteristics, like barriers to entry and pricing power, which can provide investors with inflation-protected income and strong capital growth over the medium-term.

Toll roads remain the portfolio’s largest sector overweight. These companies have benefited from a shift towards cars and away from public transport since the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, inflation-linked toll increases have had little impact on demand. Strong operating leverage (ie largely fixed costs as sales increase) has proved supportive of earnings growth. From here, we believe that improvements made to toll road networks in recent years provide scope for further growth in traffic volumes. 

A substantial portion of the portfolio consists of utilities / renewables. Following a challenging 2023, these stocks face a more constructive outlook for 2024. Balance sheets are in better shape, customer bill pressures are declining and we could see a re-emergence of M&A activity. Capital expenditure growth should accelerate, reflecting the need for increased resiliency spend and higher electricity usage growth from data centres, industrial on-shoring and electric vehicles. However, this growth is also likely to require increased equity issuance. 

The portfolio remains underweight energy midstream. Supportive oil and natural gas prices, robust LNG export levels and a disciplined approach to capital expenditure saw the sector generate strong free cash flow in 2023. This may allow energy midstream companies to increase dividend payments and carry out share buybacks, along with some M&A activity, in 2024. However, following strong share price gains in recent years, we believe that greater mispricing can be found elsewhere within our opportunity set. 

The portfolio is also underweight airports. The sector saw a significant increase in passenger volumes during 2023, led by leisure-orientated airports catering to pent-up travel demand. In 2024, we anticipate a recovery in retail spending by Chinese travellers and a gradual improvement in business traffic. Offsetting this to some extent, we are conscious that cost-of-living pressures may now begin to constrain demand for leisure travel. 

Source : Company data, First Sentier Investors, as of 31 December 2023.

 

Important Information

Investment involves risks, past performance is not a guide to future performance. Refer to the offering documents of the respective funds for details, including risk factors. The information contained within this material has been obtained from sources that First Sentier Investors (“FSI”) believes to be reliable and accurate at the time of issue but no representation or warranty, expressed or implied, is made as to the fairness, accuracy or completeness of the information. To the extent permitted by law, neither FSI, nor any of its associates, nor any director, officer or employee accepts any liability whatsoever for any loss arising directly or indirectly from any use of this. It does not constitute investment advice and should not be used as the basis of any investment decision, nor should it be treated as a recommendation for any investment. The information in this material may not be edited and/or reproduced in whole or in part without the prior consent of FSI.

This material is issued by First Sentier Investors (Hong Kong) Limited and has not been reviewed by the Securities and Futures Commission in Hong Kong. First Sentier Investors, FSSA Investment Managers, Stewart Investors, Realindex Investments and Igneo Infrastructure Partners are the business names of First Sentier Investors (Hong Kong) Limited.

First Sentier Investors (Hong Kong) Limited is part of the investment management business of First Sentier Investors, which is ultimately owned by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (“MUFG”), a global financial group. First Sentier Investors includes a number of entities in different jurisdictions.

To the extent permitted by law, MUFG and its subsidiaries are not responsible for any statement or information contained in this material. Neither MUFG nor any of its subsidiaries guarantee the performance of any investment or entity referred to in this material or the repayment of capital. Any investments referred to are not deposits or other liabilities of MUFG or its subsidiaries, and are subject to investment risk, including loss of income and capital invested.