The Pipeline: Grain targets $4bn, Stafford plans first close, LGIM’s new Europe debt lead

Grain targets $4 billion for new fund, Stafford eyes $200 million first close and LGIM replaces departed European debt lead. Welcome to The Pipeline, the start-the-week briefing for our valued subscribers only.

First look

Going with the Grain
Demand for digital infrastructure assets continues apace and Grain Management has added the latest fund into the mix, seeking $4 billion for its Grain Communications Opportunity Fund IV, according to documents from the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, a prior LP set to invest $150 million in the new vehicle.

The 10-year, North America-focused fund does not have a hard-cap yet, which will be set at first close, slated for later this quarter. Despite a bleak fundraising environment, Grain expects a final close by Q4, or Q1 next year, according to the documents.

Ambition is not in short supply when it comes to returns either, with a 25 percent gross return outlined. Its previous fund, which closed in 2021 on $2.25 billion, is too young to live up to such billing, but its 2018 vintage is outperforming, with a 21.4 percent net return, while the 2016-vintage of the series is generating a 17.5 percent net return.

Digital seems to be making the grain for Grain, then.

Stafford eyes Fund V first close
Stafford Capital Partners is expecting a first close for its fifth flagship vehicle, Stafford Infrastructure Secondaries Fund V, by the end of the summer.

The first close is set to be on around $200 million, a source familiar with the fund told The Pipeline. The fund has a target of €1.3 billion (although LPs can allocate to the fund in either US dollars or euros), a large step up from SISF IV, which closed on €731 million in August 2022.

SISF V launched in January 2023 and is classified as an Article 8 fund under the EU’s SFDR. It will follow the strategy of its predecessor funds by mainly investing in core infrastructure funds in Europe, North America and Australasia through both LP and GP-led secondaries and co-investments.

It’s still a way to go to target for Stafford, but it will be hoping for a decent start in a challenging fundraising environment.

Stafford declined to comment on the fundraising.

UK out of favour with infra investors
Taking the pulse of investor sentiment, the latest survey published by the Global Infrastructure Investor Association and Alvarez & Marsal found that an “unattractive regulatory regime” and “political instability” were cited as the greatest barriers to investing in the UK compared to other Western European countries and the US.

The UK didn’t fare well for its overall attractiveness as an investment destination, posting an average score of +1.4 on a sliding scale of -5 to +5, compared to high-flying +2.36 Nordics, the most attractive in Europe. However, no European country matched the +3.25 posted for the US.

This was attributed to the Inflation Reduction Act, with four in 10 respondents expecting to dedicate at least $5 billion each to net-zero investment over the next five years, more than twice as many as in Europe.

The 23 respondents, representing close to $1 trillion in infrastructure AUM, clearly see the IRA as the gift that keeps on giving.

All aboard the wealth train
EQT is the latest asset manager to target individual investors after launching Nexus, its semi-liquid strategy targeting individual investors, affiliate title Private Equity International reported.

With a minimum investment of €25,000 (which will differ in geographies due to regulatory restrictions), institutional and individual investors can access EQT’s PE and infrastructure funds via a single, fully funded investment. The strategy will offer exposure to EQT’s flagship fund, growth, life sciences, the APAC-focused BPEA EQT unit, venture and value-add infra, as well as co-investments, a spokesperson told PEI. There is also an option to acquire secondary stakes when it makes sense from a portfolio construction perspective; however, this is expected to be minor.

EQT Nexus will initially be available in Europe and APAC, targeting net returns between 12-15 percent. Investors have the option to subscribe on a monthly basis and request redemptions on a quarterly basis, subject to redemption limitations.


“The message from the water and sewage industry today is clear: we are sorry. More should have been done to address the issue of spillages sooner and the public is right to be upset about the current quality of our rivers and beaches”

The UK water industry, via industry body Water UK, finally apologises as it pledges £10 billion ($12.4 billion; €11.5 billion) to a new National Overflows Plan.

Who’s hiring

LGIM replaces departed European infra debt chief
John Carey has been appointed as LGIM’s new head of infrastructure debt in Europe. He will lead a six-person team managing £3.6 billion of AUM in the UK and Europe.

Carey leaves a position as executive director for debt investments at IFM investors, reporting to Calum Macphail, head of private credit investment, Europe.

LGIM’s previous head of infrastructure debt, Europe, was Will Devenney, who left at the end of 2022 and re-surfaced earlier this year as managing partner of Canada-based Power Sustainable’s newly launched European Infrastructure Credit platform.

LGIM’s ambition is “to bring in new investment opportunities for clients, including pension funds, insurance companies and consultants”, according to a statement. As infra debt is enjoying a comparatively smooth ride through the headwinds facing large parts of the private markets, this could pay off.

The competition for European infra debt shows no sign of letting up.

LP watch

Cbus supercharges direct investing
One of Australia’s largest infrastructure investors, the A$73 billion ($48 billion; €45 billion) Cbus Super, last week announced a shift in its investment strategy: a plan to manage 50 percent of its assets internally under what the fund is calling a “differentiated hybrid” model, an increase from the current 38 percent.

The fund’s infrastructure investments, both direct and indirect, are overseen by head of private markets and infrastructure Alexandra Campbell. The new strategy will see Cbus pursue more partnerships on big real assets investments – as it has done previously with Forth Ports in the UK – but it won’t yet be opening overseas offices like some of its peers have done. Partners on infrastructure deals have included Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, DIF Capital Partners, and Brookfield Asset Management.

Acting CEO Kristian Fok said in a statement: “At this point we are in a sweet spot where we are big enough that few deals are too large and few deals are too small. This gives us great flexibility and makes us an attractive investment partner in a number of sectors.”

All aboard the Cbus, then.


EQT carves out €2bn Italian mobile network operator
EQT has paid just over €2 billion to Italian mobile provider Wind Tre for a 60 percent stake in a newly carved-out Italian mobile network company. Wind Tre’s owner, CK Hutchison, will own the remaining 40 percent.

The new entity will own and operate Wind Tre’s mobile and fixed network on a 30-year contract and will also operate Italian networks for French telecom company Iliad and Italian FastWeb. EQT hopes to attract additional tenants.

The transaction gives the new company – set to become Italy’s largest provider of mobile network coverage and capacity – an enterprise value of €3.4 billion.

The deal tries to address the diminishing profits several European telecom operators are experiencing due to high competition, a trend which is particularly pronounced in Italy, Matthias Fackler, partner and head of Europe for EQT Infrastructure, told The Pipeline.

The deal is a new take on telecom carve-outs, argues Fackler: “This is different from carving out towers and data centres because mobile active equipment is more complex to manage from an operational perspective.”

The acquisition was made through EQT Infrastructure VI, launched in September 2022.

Today’s letter was prepared by Zak BentleyKalliope Gourntis, Daniel Kemp  and Anne-Louise Stranne Petersen also contributed