All hail the king!

GIP now manages the largest-ever infrastructure fund in the history of the asset class. It is also building funds under management at a speed private equity’s largest players could only dream of.

Following this week’s revelation that it had raised $7.5 billion for its second infrastructure fund, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) took the crown from investment bank Goldman Sachs for the largest infrastructure fund ever raised.

Up till now, Goldman held the accolade thanks to the $6.5 billion fund it managed to raise in 2006 for its Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners I (GSIP I) fund. GIP, with $7.5 billion raised for GIP II, as its second fund is known, is already a cool $1 billion larger than GSIP I – and it hasn’t even finished fundraising yet.

GIP went to its backers – and got approval – to raise the hard cap for Fund II from $7.5 billion to more than $8 billion, a decision already vindicated. Raising hard caps can be tricky as it can mean scaling back the commitments of those who have already put money on the table. But GIP’s investors liked the idea of one fund having genuine firepower in a market where potential rivals are capital-constrained. 

While one has to be careful about extrapolating too much from GIP II’s ongoing fundraise, there are a few interesting takeaways for the asset class as a whole.

One is that independent fund managers are really becoming the elite of infrastructure general partners (GPs).

Reprising the Goldman Sachs comparison: while its first fund raised $6.5 billion, its second – closed in 2010, when bank-affiliated infrastructure funds were already falling out of favour with limited partners (LPs) – raised less than half that amount at $3.1 billion. GIP is on the exact inverse trajectory, with its first fund clocking in at $5.64 billion and its second galloping towards a decisively larger $8 billion.

But another, more interesting takeaway, is that investors are committing capital to GIP at a rate to put high-flying, high-return private equity firms to shame.

That’s something that was flagged in conversation not long ago by an advisory source, who pointed out that LPs are placing a lot of faith in elite infrastructure GPs, committing the sort of capital that took private equity fund managers much longer to raise.

He has a point. It took Permira, a well-known private equity outfit, 10 years to amass €14.2 billion in capital through various funds. GIP has managed is close to raising $13.64 billion, or €12 billion, in four years via two vehicles. GIP’s fundraising prowess even compares favourably with bigger private equity names like Apax Partners, which took a decade to raise €23.5 billion. At this rate, it would take GIP eight years to surpass that figure.

It’s not just GIP either. The likes of Macquarie and Goldman Sachs also managed to amass large quantities of money for infrastructure in a comparatively short time span.

Given that many of these infrastructure funds have a longer life than your average private equity fund, it will take LPs longer to find out if their faith was warranted.

But for now, GIP shows that some infrastructure GPs are capable of attracting unprecedented amounts of institutional capital relative to their time in the fundraising market. It’s time to proclaim: all hail the king!