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A Look at 2018's Hottest Tech Companies

Safehaven.com News Commentary

LONDON, December 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --

America is being held hostage.  Not by a foreign power. Not by terrorism. But by a national infrastructure system that is dangerously close to collapse.  Included in today's commentary:  Cisco Sytems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO), Vulcan Materials Company (NYSE: VMC), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC), Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. (NYSE: JEC), Methode Electronics Inc (NYSE: MEI)

We've all heard about the planned $1 trillion infrastructure re-construction project. But in reality, it's going to take $4.6 trillion to rebuild American roads, bridges, highways, dams and airports.

Out of ninety-thousand dams, fifteen thousand are now a public hazard and will have to be rebuilt, at a cost of $60 billion. About one-third of all American roads are in poor condition. Out of the nation's six-hundred thousand bridges, more than fifty-thousand are "structurally deficient."

The nation's energy infrastructure is also in a sorry state. Oil pipelines have caused more than nine thousand accidents in the last thirty years, costing $8.5 billion. Accidents at refineries are common and each year thousands of barrels of oil and gas leak out of pipelines, storage tanks or transportation systems, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The scope of the problem is huge, but so are the opportunities for infrastructure companies positioned to meet the demands of the "Great American Re-Build."

Infrastructure stocks are about to take off, and investors who can anticipate the coming boom can make a killing investing in companies that will be at the forefront, particularly those using new technology, big-data monitoring and artificial intelligence.

Here's five companies to watch for:

#1 Cisco Sytems (NASDAQ: CSCO)

One of the biggest names in networking is about to make the transition from hardware to software. For years, Cisco sold the hardware needed to build and maintain telecommunications networks: internet routers, switchers and cables connecting thousands of offices and households.

Much of the U.S. national network is in dire need of an upgrade, but Cisco is diversifying to meet a range of new challenges as networking moves to the cloud.

Cisco is a major player in telecommunications hardware. With a market cap of more than $185 billion, the company earned $49 billion in 2015 and $48 billion in 2016. For years Cisco was a stable stock, though one that showed very little growth. But in 2018 the company plans on pivoting away from its old staples towards new products.

Even with the coming infrastructure rejuvenation, the need for networking hardware will decline as more companies and households come to rely on cloud computing. Cisco is preparing to meet that need by pivoting away from hardware towards hybrid cloud platforms, the Internet of Things (IOT) and cybersecurity.

This year Cisco announced a partnership with Google to use its Google Cloud Platform and construct a new Cisco hybrid cloud platform.

After several quarters of decline, Cisco has come back leaner and meaner than before, raising expectations that the company's stock will out-perform in 2018.

#2 Carl Data (CRL;CDTAF)

Throughout the United States, thousands of dams, roads and bridges are in dire need of repair, rejuvenation or reconstruction. But how do we know which are in the gravest need of help? How can information be leveraged into preventing collapsing bridges, bursting pipelines or cracking dams?

With millions of data points from infrastructure sites throughout the country, the amount of information to manage amidst the Great American Re-Build is staggering.

Enter Carl Data, a small company with big ambitions and a plan to leverage remote monitoring, a market that could be worth $27 billion by 2023, for infrastructure projects and disaster prevention across the country.

A lot of attention has been paid to sensors in place in dams, roads and bridges that measure structural integrity and flash warning signs when repairs are needed. While thousands of such sensors exist, many dams and bridges lack adequate sensor systems. The market for data-collection is expected to double from $10.68 billion to $21.62 billion in the next three years.

But perhaps more important is the data from those sensors which goes uncollected, uncollated, and unprocessed.

Carl Data has an AI-based system that processes vast amounts of sensor-collected data and predicts if, or when, critical infrastructure failures will take place. The tech allows Carl Data to predict disasters up to seven days in advance.

That's predictive technology that could translate into big savings. A single failed dam, for instead, can cost $700 million in damages and $2 billion in clean-up costs. Carl Data's proprietary technology can prevent such waste and prevent structural problems from spiraling into big disasters.

Using its mastery of the data, Carl Data can then alert companies on the ground to take action before a disaster strikes.

So far, the company has focused on marketing its technology to the midstream energy market. Pipeline operators like TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, Husky and Enbridge can use Carl Data's services to know exactly where a pipeline may be in need of repair.

Technology like this could prove critical in preventing costly leaks, such as the recent leak from the Keystone Pipeline in North Dakota.

The company already sees a profit margin of 50-60 percent on licensing fees to new customers, and as new customers are gained costs go down and margins go up. Return customers add to the company's revenue stream, as its too costly for companies to move their data from Carl to another provider.

The pipeline monitoring market that Carl Data is looking to disrupt should expand quickly in the coming years, from $4.13 billion to $8.72 billion by 2026. But this is just one potential sector for Carl Data's innovative technology.

The company could easily market its AI system to water supply and irrigation systems, a market that generates $77 billion in revenue. Or it could turn to the electric power transmission systems, part of America's vast and dilapidated electricity infrastructure, that amasses $380 billion each year.

Any company involved in managing infrastructure needs environmental sensor monitoring-and that's a service Carl Data is well-positioned to provide.

With so much ready to re-build, and so much data out there to be collected and analyzed, Carl Data (CSE: CRL; OTC: CDTAF) is poised to offer unique services at a time when infrastructure firms will need them most. Its technology could save billions of dollars and countless lives from man-made disasters.

This is definitely a company to watch.

#3 Vulcan Materials Company (NYSE: VMC)

During a time of big infrastructure projects, with so much waiting to be re-built and re-furbished, you need a company that can build big things, fast. And that's what Vulcan Materials Company is all about.

One of the largest infrastructure supply firms in the country, Vulcan focuses on mining and supplying construction aggregates-crushed stone, gravel, and sand-that are needed for construction projects. The company operates from 337 supply sites and more than 100 facilities that produce asphalt and concrete in the United States and Mexico.

The company is the largest U.S. supplier of construction aggregates and employs over seven thousand people at its three-hundred facilities.

The company's performance in the last several years has been impressive, averaging 7 percent annualized growth and a 10 percent net profit margin. Gross profit in 2017 was $306 million with aggregate sales of $859 million, despite the disruptions caused by this year's hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.

But that performance should improve once infrastructure projects begin pouring in and demand for construction aggregates shoots upward.

#4 Intel (NASDAQ: INTC)

Applying new technology to old problems is standard practice for Intel, a computing hardware giant that is prepared to meet the challenges of infrastructure re-construction, particularly in the transportation sector.

It's doing that by staking a claim in one new technology: self-driving cars.

Nvidia already has a head-start in self-driving car technology, but Intel is fast catching up and could surpass Nvidia's remarkable stock growth over the last year.

Intel through collaboration with Facebook is rolling out a new series of AI chips that will be used in self-driving cars. The company is laying out plans to be at the forefront of that sector through its acquisition of Mobileye.

The deal, worth $15 billion, combines Mobileye's focus on sensors with Intel's tech wizardry and is the precursor to a roll-out of 100 self-driving cars by the end of 2017. Intel is partnering with BMW and Delphi Automotive to produce a fleet of self-driving cars specifically designed for the new roads of tomorrow.

#5 Jacobs Engineering (NYSE: JEC)

Amidst a national infrastructure re-construction campaign, there has to be companies prepared to do the actual constructing! Enter Jacobs Engineering, a major name in architecture, engineering and construction.

The company is a behemoth, employing more than fifty thousand people in over two-hundred locations across the United States. It's also a strong earner, bringing in $10.9 billion in revenues in 2016.

The latest earnings call for JEC sent stocks higher after a few months in the pits and the company now sits at a fifty-two week high. The company beat expectations on the basis of a strong back-log of projects and impressive cost-cutting. In late November the company topped out S&P 500's strongest earners' list as its quarter revenues reached $2.6 billion, beating expectations by more than $100 million.

The company has a hand in hundreds of different construction and engineering projects, from Aerospace Technology, Petroleum and Chemicals to Buildings and Infrastructure.

The company operates around the world, and in November was awarded a lucrative contract for a processing plant in the Persian Gulf.

With its excellent reputation and recent strong growth indicators, it's likely that Jacobs will be leading the charge on infrastructure and engineering projects in the Great American Re-Build, delivering big windfalls to investors.

Companies to watch:

Methode Electronics Inc (NYSE: MEI): Methode, a global manufacturer of electronic components and subsystems, including wireless and sensing technologies, is also set to take advantage of the boom in big data and critical infrastructure monitoring. Its smart-sensor technologies have already made their way into the heavy industry, military, aerospace, transportation, and communications sectors, and critical infrastructure monitoring market. In the meantime, Zacks recently upgraded the stock from a 'hold' to a 'strong buy' rating.

By Meredith Taylor

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