John Laing closes in on most state-backed fund assets – The Irish Times

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UK infrastructure investor John Laing is in advanced talks to buy three of four assets from the state-backed Irish Infrastructure Fund (IIF) which came to market over the summer with a total price of more than a billion euros, according to sources. .

John Laing, which was taken over by US private equity giant KKR last year, has been selected as the preferred bidder for the IIF’s assets, including a contract to operate the Dublin Convention Centre, the company’s Towercom telecommunications towers and primary healthcare company Valley Healthcare, the sources said.

The fund manager, Australia’s AMP Capital, has also reportedly attracted a number of bids for IIF’s remaining asset, fiber network company Enet. However, it is understood that he could realize a higher value for this business by selling it on a standalone asset. This part of the process has been extended to allow for further engagement with bidders and also to allow others to participate in the mix, sources said.

The IIF was established by Irish Life Investment Managers (ILIM) in 2011, with €250 million backing from the state’s Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), then known as the National Pensions Reserve fund. AMP has been appointed discretionary manager of the fund.

Representatives for AMP, John Laing, ILIM and ISIF declined to comment on the status of the sale process. There are approximately 20 investors in the fund. US investment bank Jefferies and IBI Corporate Finance in Dublin are handling the process.

John Laing’s decision to acquire most of IIF’s assets comes a year and a half after the British group sold the 35.6 megawatt wind farm it had developed to Co Tipperary for £31.2 million. euros to Greencoat Renewables, listed in Dublin.

KKR acquired John Laing late last year in a deal valued at around £2bn (€2.3bn) that took the former listed company off the London Stock Exchange .

The IIF began in 2012 by purchasing wind farm assets from Energia Group (then known as Viridian) which would eventually be resold. In 2013, it purchased Towercom, with a portfolio of over 400 telecommunications towers, from clients of Goodbody Stockbrokers.

Two years later, the fund acquired a license to operate the Dublin Convention Center until 2035 from the administrators of Treasury Holdings. The conference center building on the Liffey side is owned by the government through the Office of Public Works (OPW).

In 2017, the IIR took control of Enet, which operates state-owned fiber optic infrastructure called metropolitan networks in 94 cities.

That same year, the fund created Valley Healthcare. This company currently has 20 health centers in operation, and six more are in development.

AMP Capital and leading IIF investors began weighing the fund’s long-term future three years ago, sources have previously said, with options such as raising additional funds to continue investing even in an environment of increased competition for the assets of foreign investment funds, or a sale of the portfolio.

While a formal decision to sell was only made earlier this year, there was general consensus at the end of 2020 that this would be the outcome, they said. However, the review also came against the backdrop of the fallout from revelations in 2020 that Boe Pahari, who was hired a decade earlier to lead AMP Capital’s European infrastructure business and led some of the early IIF transactions, had been promoted to head AMP Capital even though the wider AMP group knew he had settled a sexual harassment complaint filed by a female colleague. Mr Pahari left AMP Capital in April 2021. However, the episode had already raised concern from some IIF investors, including ISIF, who told online publisher The Currency in August 2020 that he had “raised his concerns about this to AMP Capital, and discussed them with Irish Life and shareholder advisory groups”.

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