Why Transurban Group is one of Australia’s best blue-chip shares

Credit: Steffen Ramsaier

At a time where many blue chips are struggling to find and achieve growth, there is one standout in the form of Transurban Group (ASX: TCL).

Although it isn’t usually regarded as one of Australia’s typical blue-chips (when would you have heard it mentioned in the same sentence as, say, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA), Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW) or BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP)?), Transurban is a high-quality business that has proven reliable for investors.

Indeed, its shares have risen 24.6% over the last 12 months (compared to a 5.3% decline for the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO)) and 129% over the last five years, amounting to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of a little over 18%.

What’s more, that figure isn’t even including dividends that have been distributed by the group. The chart below, provided by the company in February, shows the reliability of the group’s dividend payments, which have grown at a CAGR or more than 10% since the 2009 financial year.

The company is guiding for a final dividend of 23 cents per share (partially franked), amounting to a total of 45.5 cents in financial year 2016. At today’s share price, that equates to a dividend yield of 3.8%.

Source: Transurban Group investor presentation

Source: Transurban Group investor presentation

Transurban Group is the owner and operator of a number of the country’s busiest roads. Amongst them are CityLink in Victoria as well as the Hills M2 Motorway and the Cross City and Lane Cove Tunnels in New South Wales. It also has controlling and non-controlling interests in numerous other roads in New South Wales, Queensland and also the United States.

Indeed, many of these assets are among Australia’s most important infrastructure. Although it costs more to drive through a tollway than to go around, bypassing these roads can add precious time to a trip, so many individuals (and businesses) are willing to pay the premium.

What’s more, the roads should only increase in importance as the country’s population grows and as more cars take to the asphalt.

In another sign of the company’s dominance, Transurban continues to grow its revenue at an even faster pace than average daily traffic numbers are growing, signifying its pricing power. Indeed, The Australian Financial Review also recently highlighted some of the deals that Transurban has in place with certain state governments that allow it to increase tolls at a faster rate than inflation. That is something that many companies can only dream of doing.

Of course, that does also introduce the risk of regulations being imposed that could hinder such agreements in the future. Meanwhile, there is also potential for regulatory authorities to block future projects or acquisitions, which would also be a negative for the business and its shareholders.

What’s more, Transurban operates in a very capital intensive industry. While it may be protected from competition (i.e. how many rivals would build a freeway right next to an existing one), Transurban’s various projects could be exposed to cost blowouts which would also impact the business’ bottom-line results.

Finally, there is also the risk of overpaying for Transurban’s shares. Following their stellar run over the last 12 months, the shares aren’t necessarily cheap so investors should definitely do their own due diligence into the business before even considering a purchase.

Still, Transurban is a high-quality business that at very least deserves a position on your watchlist today. If Transurban doesn't appeal to you, however, I urge you to check out The Motley Fool's top 3 blue chips for 2016. These 3 'new breed' shares pay fully franked dividends AND offer the very real prospect of significant capital appreciation.

Simply click here to gain access to this comprehensive FREE investment report. No credit card required.

Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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