Institutional Investing in Infrastructure

November 1, 2014: Vol. 7, Number 10

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From the Current Issue


There is no I in team: groups that build partnerships between public and private sectors are fostering more infrastructure investment in the U.S.

During the past couple of years, public sector–sponsored entities have been established in the United States to attract private capital to infrastructure projects, and with public funds often lacking to do the necessary work, the private sector is expected to play a much larger role in upgrading U.S. bridges, roads, water systems and other infrastructure. Yet despite huge needs, deal flow for P3 infrastructure projects has only slowly and incrementally increased in the past few years. But now, 2014 has become the year that the federal government has dramatically stepped up its efforts to get public and private sides together on P3 infrastructure deals. What can investors expect from these developments?


Help wanted, experience required: Like a first-time job seeker, first-time fund managers have to prove their value with little or no track record

Most people are familiar with the Catch-22 of a first-time job search: Hiring managers typically want to fill positions with experienced people, but the entry-level job seeker can’t get experience until they are hired for that first job. So what is a person with no employment history to do?

The predicament is not unlike what many first-time investment managers run into — institutional investors are reluctant to write a check to a team that has little or no track record of performance to judge, and a team cannot achieve a track record until getting a few institutional commitments.

One of the challenges these investment managers may face from more sophisticated investors is a robust, objective assessment that compares and contrasts them with other professional managers. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, for example, recently adopted a systematic approach to objectively compare all of its prospective managers and partners.


Look at me: Infrastructure sometimes gets lost in a sea of real estate

A couple of weeks ago, I spent three days among 36,000 of my nearest and dearest friends at Expo Real in Munich, Germany. Although the event is billed as a trade fair for the real estate industry, the symbiotic relationship between infrastructure and real estate was obvious everywhere you looked. Stands hosted by city, state, regional and country governments all featured large, glitzy scale models of new urban areas complete with retail, office, hotel and residential development — some were so large and detailed that you wondered if you were entering the actual city. But woven through those shiny new scale-model buildings were new roads, metro lines, sustainable power plants, bridges, transportation hubs and other infrastructure needed to support the growth of commercial property assets. 

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