John Hancock’s new infra fund invests in Blackstone’s tower business

The vehicle closed last month on $2bn, in a strategy shift that sees the Canadian insurer manage third-party capital for the asset class.

John Hancock’s Life Insurance Company has invested in Phoenix Tower International, acquiring a minority interest in the telecommunications business owned by Blackstone’s Tactical Opportunities group.

PTI, which was launched in 2013 and is based in Florida, owns 3,500 mobile towers and manages an additional 2,500 sites under marketing rights agreements, as well as 974km of fibre in 10 countries. The Blackstone Tactical Opportunities group, which invests globally across asset classes, industries and geographies, invested in PTI and made it a portfolio company in 2014.

Recep Kendircioglu, senior managing director of the John Hancock Power and Infrastructure group, said in a statement that the investment shows the firm has “confidence in the future of the telecom infrastructure space”. Investment in telecoms has picked up pace in recent years as demand for mobile data access and fibre internet connection has shown signs of high-growth potential.

The size of John Hancock’s investment or the stake in PTI it acquired was not disclosed. The firm, a division of the Canadian insurance giant’s private markets group and known outside the US as Manulife Financial Corporation, invested through its John Hancock Infrastructure Fund.

JHIF closed last month on $2 billion, marking a shift to managing third-party capital in addition to John Hancock’s own balance sheet, a strategy the company has adopted for other alternative assets in which it invests.

In addition to communications assets, JHIF will target sectors including regulated utilities, energy generation and transportation.

The fund received commitments from 25 institutional investors, the majority located in North America and Europe. It has been seeded with around $1 billion in prior John Hancock infrastructure investments, which include wind and solar farms, a natural gas plant, utilities and toll roads. The insurer will also match the fund’s new primary investments on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

John Hancock did not respond to a request for comment.