First Sentier appoints head of North America amid leadership promotions

The firm is cementing its focus on North American infrastructure with the appointment of John Ma to the role, following Niall Mills’ promotion to global head in May.

First Sentier Investors has made several appointments as it expands its focus on North American infrastructure.

The Sydney-headquartered asset manager has promoted New York-based John Ma to partner and head of North American infrastructure. He was previously director and head of infrastructure investments, North America.

Ma joined First Sentier in 2018, having been chief of staff to the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Partner Marcus Ayre was also promoted to head of Europe. He was previously co-head of Europe with fellow partner Niall Mills, who was elevated to head of global infrastructure investments in May.

Sydney-based partners Danny Latham and Chris McArthur will retain their existing responsibilities as co-heads of Australia and New Zealand.

First Sentier said the new leadership structure reflected the evolving needs of its client base and would “ensure that its increasingly diversified global asset portfolio is managed effectively with a regional leadership structure across its key regions”.

The firm did its first deal in North America in 2019 with the acquisition of Patriot Rail and Ports from SteelRiver Infrastructure. In January, Mills told Infrastructure Investor that the move would help build stronger ties with the firm’s existing LPs from the region.

“Investors, for completely normal reasons, like to see a couple of local assets,” he said. “But our investment strategy is about delivering value. So we’re looking for good-quality businesses, not local assets for the sake of local assets. And frankly, [a global strategy] kind of means you have to be in America too, doesn’t it?”

The firm also completed its first investment in the Australian renewables sector with the purchase of a portfolio of wind farm assets owned by John Laing for A$285 million ($202 million; €170 million).

In addition to the leadership appointments, Nick Grant, Gregor Kurth and Hamish Lea-Wilson have been named partners and will join the global infrastructure senior management team. Gavin Kerr has been appointed head of transactions, Australia and New Zealand, and Daniel Timms has been appointed head of asset management, Australia and New Zealand.