Exclusive: DIF to open Aussie office, launch new fund

The Dutch firm is looking to establish operations in the country to take advantage of the upcoming recycling of privatisation proceeds into new PPPs.

Dutch fund manager DIF intends to set foot in Australia as part of an ongoing drive to diversify its exposure to developed markets, according to two of the company’s top executives.

In a move that follows its entry in North America two years ago, the firm aims to start operating in the country next year with a view to invest in economic and social infrastructure, Wim Blaasse and Allard Ruijs, respectively managing partner and partner at DIF, told Infrastructure Investor.

The fund manager is currently working on establishing an Australian presence and intends to grow its investment team to build its local capabilities. “We’ve only recently taken the decision to move to Australia and the next step is to open an office after transferring one of our team members and hiring local people,” Blaasse said.

The firm will look to invest in the country via its latest vehicle, the €800 million DIF Infrastructure III, as well as through a new vehicle the company aims to launch in 2015. “Given that we expect to fundraise again next year, Australia will be one of the new territories in that fund,” Blaasse explained.

One of Australia’s major selling points, he added, was its maturity as an infrastructure market. “It basically started together with the UK market so there is a lot of expertise and well established players there. And the market has been dominated by only a few parties, so governments are keen to introduce new entrants and people have an open mind about potential new experienced parties.”

Blaasse also argued that DIF enjoys strong relations with a number of developers with Australian operations, providing it with a useful stepping stone in an otherwise new market. That would help the firm position itself favourably as sizeable privatisation proceeds – generated by billion-dollar potential state asset sales in the coming years – are recycled into greenfield projects, notably public-private partnerships (PPPs).

These would bolster activity in a number of sectors including economic infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, as well as social infrastructure, including healthcare, Blaasse said. “We see that PPPs with governments are gaining more and more interest globally. And it’s important to be active in many countries because markets can go up and down and it can take some time before projects are brought to market.”

The news comes a month after DIF sold the whole of DIF PPP, its maiden fund, to Aberdeen Asset Management. The UK firm paid an undisclosed sum for the portfolio, which comprised 16 assets located in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland.