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CalPERS buys 12.7% stake in Gatwick Airport

The $156m investment marks the $203.6bn pension plan’s first direct investment in its growing infrastructure programme. In March, CalPERS said it would make $900m of investments in infrastructure this year, including $400m directly.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has agreed to buy a 12.7 percent stake in London’s Gatwick Airport, marking the first direct investment of its infrastructure investment programme.

The $203.6 billion pension said in a statement Friday it has committed up to £106 million (€127 million; $156 million) to acquire the stake from Global Infrastructure Partners, which acquired the London airport for £1.5 billion in December 2009.

“We are looking for opportunities to invest directly in high-quality infrastructure assets. We see it as a good fit for our burgeoning infrastructure program,” CalPERS’ investment committee chair George Diehr said in the statement.

CalPERS launched the infrastructure programme in 2007 with a policy allocation of 1.5 percent of the pension fund’s total market assets. Including the previously disclosed $700 million of infrastructure fund commitments CalPERS already had in its infrastructure programme, the Gatwick investment would bring the value of its total infrastructure portfolio to at least $856 million.

In March, the pension disclosed plans to make $900 million in infrastructure investments, including $400 million as a direct investor.

A CalPERS spokesperson was not available for comment at press time.

For Global Infrastructure Partners, the sale marks part of its previously disclosed plan to sell down its equity holding in Gatwick Airport, though the $5.64 billion infrastructure fund manager said in a statement it will continue to own a “controlling shareholding” in the airport.

Aside from CalPERS, Global Infrastructure Partners has also disclosed sell-downs of Gatwick Airport to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (15 percent) and the South Korea’s National Pension Service (12 percent).

Located 28 miles south of London, Gatwick serves approximately 33 million passengers a year, making it the UK’s second busiest airport and one of the busiest in Europe, according to CalPERS.