‘Infrastructure will be a winner’

Paris-based fund manager Antin Infrastructure Partners recently announced a €515m second close for its €1bn-target Antin IP fund. At a media briefing, CEO Alain Rauscher said he was confident fundraising has taken a turn for the better and spoke about where new deal opportunities lie.

At a recent media briefing in London, Alain Rauscher, chief executive of Paris-based Antin Infrastructure Partners was asked about the fundraising market, strategic imperatives and the attractions of energy. Extracts from his responses are recorded below:     

Rauscher:
Infra will be
a winner

What’s been your experience of fundraising?
AR: “It’s been a very difficult fundraising market, and that’s an understatement. We launched in January 2009 and were faced with LPs who told us – at best – that they liked the fund but we should come back six months later as they were still counting their losses. Placement improved very significantly in the second half. By then, losses had been counted and the stock market was stable and at a higher level. LPs were thinking about investing in some asset classes again. Infrastructure has been and will continue to be a winner. It has stability and visibility of earnings and showed resilience to the crisis.”

What’s the key selling point? 
AR: “We will commit at least 80 percent of funds in the Eurozone. That’s a strong differentiator. Other European funds have invested a lot in sterling assets. The benefits [of our strategy] are that you minimise currency risks as the UK is only 20 percent of the portfolio. We face less competition on the Continent.”

Where are the opportunities?
AR: “We have looked at 120 deals since fund launch and made final offers on seven. There are a lot of opportunities for infrastructure funds in continental Europe for several reasons: infrastructure strategics have overstretched their balance sheets; strategics want to get into new-builds and to therefore free up balance sheet capacity; and energy companies have been forced to unbundle assets.” 

Your most recent deal was in energy [French oil storage company Pinto] and I understand energy is now your priority. Why is that?    
AR: “When we set up the fund we thought there would be good energy opportunities but didn’t think the time was right. The large energy companies were big buyers themselves and prices were high. You could see there would be pressure from the EC on strategy [that might result in the forced sale of assets] and that the oil price would come down – so we saw energy coming into our price criteria. Eighty percent of the deals in our pipeline are in the energy sector. By the end of this year the fund will have more of a transport/energy balance.”