3 top picks: Roads, power and education

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Glenn Freeman: Aaron, you have selected three companies from some quite distinct areas. You've got an education company, an infrastructure company and a utility. Can you just talk us through those three companies just briefly?

Aaron Binsted: So, the first one I'll talk today is Navitas. So, for the defensive Australian equity fund, we really want certainty of income and protection of capital. Navitas we bought into earlier this calendar year. Its underlying business University Pathway is very high cash flow, good margins and very defensive, low sensitivity to the economic cycle. So, that we liked. The company has been through a bit of transition recently. So, they lost a large contract more than 12 months ago, the Macquarie contract, which impacted profitability. They also had some offshore assets in the U.S. that were underperforming. And they lost an English language contract with the Australian government.

So, through that transition and resetting of market expectations, the price came back to a level where we thought it offered a good risk/return profile and we invested earlier this year. It's actually interesting. Subsequently, there's been a takeover offer for the company with a private equity consortium and one of the founders at $5.50, that process is still ongoing. We will see how it plays out. But yeah, Navitas is one that fits our bill.

Freeman: And the toll road operator Transurban is another one that you've mentioned.

Binsted: Yeah. So, Transurban has a yield of around 5 per cent today. The attributes that we like are its very high revenue certainty. Intra-urban toll roads have very low sensitivity to economic growth; very high margins, which means a lot of cash flow comes back to investors; and they have a lot of development projects which we think will continue that cash flow growth for many years to come. For example, NorthConnex, West Gate Tunnel in Victoria and then further on WestConnex in Sydney.

Freeman: And the third company you've got in this mix is Spark infrastructure.

Binsted: Yeah. So, Spark has a much higher starting yield just a bit under 7 per cent today which we think is a great upfront yield. Lower growth than the first two I mentioned, but also very high certainty at least until 2021 as they have a regulated business and their revenues and earnings are set by the regulator. So, we can have a high degree of confidence that investors will receive that dividend. We think the capital valuation to get that yield is very reasonable.

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