This week, there will be a lot of chatter about U.S. infrastructure. Investors are banking on new updates about the state of an infrastructure bill within Congress. And while I do have a top infrastructure trade for you, I want to talk to you about my life and how I think. I want to discuss the three biggest problems with German infrastructure – all of which took me an hour to discover during my trip this week. Let’s go.
I arrived last Tuesday morning. It was 8 am. I thought it would all be okay. I had woken up at 4 am somewhere over Iceland. And I didn’t sleep again. But fate punished me. At 6 am, the man in front of me found out that we were both from Southwest Florida. I asked him where he was from, and his answer – or at least his talking to my face – lasted another 4.5 hours.
Man was I tired and cranky; I was talked to through the deplaning and I was talked to during customs. And my new friend, if you want to call him that, had never been handed social cues. I know more about this man than I do about most of my friends. I could write his biography. But I couldn’t take any more. I saw a bag on the conveyor belt that looked like mine.
I said goodbye, grabbed the bag, wheeled it out, got on a train, had a beer, and checked my email. Not once did I check the bag to make sure it was mine. Thirty minutes later I was 15 minutes outside of Bonn. The trains are fast. But I received a phone call that said the obvious. I took the wrong bag. I needed to go back, all my clothes were in the other bag. So, I got off at Bonn. I missed the train heading back to the airport by three minutes. And then I waited.
In Bonn, I was waiting for the next train back to Frankfurt. It’s a 40- to 45-minute ride. But the train schedule said that the next train was five minutes late. It wasn’t five minutes late. It was much more than this.
You see, in Germany, they never tell you that the train is going to be an hour late. They tell you the train will be five minutes late…. Twelve times. Do the math.
I finally boarded an hour after the scheduled ride. I got back to the train station at Frankfurt after taking two hours to turn around.
When I arrived at the Frankfurt Airport, I had to take a bus back to the terminal. Now the busses are very wide, but the lanes are thin. And when a car broke down in a lane needed to get back to the terminal, we waited 25 minutes until we all got frustrated and pushed the car up a hill into a series of bushes. The streets are too narrow and the turns too tight.
I thought my day wasn’t going to get worse. It did. When I did get to the airport, I needed to get back to the baggage claim. It turns out that the baggage claim door had malfunctioned. So, we needed to wait 45 minutes for a maintenance person to arrive. About 20 maintenance people did pass by, but not the person we needed.
And when we were finally led back to our destination – after a solid 50 minutes of waiting – it turned out that the Delta baggage people had left 15 minutes prior. I had paid 145 euro to go back and forth from Frankfurt to Bonn to Frankfurt.
What would it matter if I tried to bribe the baggage handler another 50 to go find my bag in the back? Luckily, the people at American Airlines were nice and helped. This situation couldn’t get more costly, right?
So, now here’s the fun. I went back to the train station and waited for my train. I missed the one I had paid for because the baggage problems mounted. But here I was standing next to two people from Bonn who were eager to help me get home.
The train we booked was naturally 25 minutes late (or delayed five times by five minutes – 25 minutes total) We boarded eagerly when we arrived. And then the news came. Our original train was canceled. And we had boarded the wrong train. There had been no public warning. The overhead sign still said that we were getting on a Bonn train.
But this one was not heading to Bonn. It was going to Cologne. That was 35 minutes north of my destination. I would tell you this is the end of it. But it turns out I ended up on another train that nearly took me to Belgium before I had to turn back…
And the other train that I needed to board from Cologne – upon instruction from a German woman who just decided to stop helping – was canceled. I landed in Germany at 7:55 am but didn’t arrive at my hotel in Bonn until 5:30 pm. I spent more time getting to my hotel than I did flying across an ocean. This was a masterclass in inefficiency and calamity.
My Top Infrastructure Trade
There are many things I could spin a yarn over these days. But at the core is that even with a massive amount of investment, infrastructure is terribly inefficient. I always recommend that people invest in the dividends of solid infrastructure companies rather than chasing “upside.” I have a simple recommendation for a top infrastructure trade.
Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (NYSE:BIP) is one of the few investments that you need to own to lock in gains on infrastructure. I don’t speculate on nonsense. I focus on companies that have proven leadership, proven assets, and no speculative business units.
Do your research and don’t end up in Belgium.
Brookfield trades a little north of $55 per share and offers a 3.68% dividend. Brookfield is a very well-known and respected name in all of its endeavors. In fact, I don’t think that I could pick a public name that surpasses its historical levels of success in infrastructure.