As countries in the West turn inwards and foreign investment rules shift in the name of national security, Australia’s Queensland Investment Corp (QIC) is in the middle of a global pivot, placing bids for grid assets in Denmark, ports in Poland and PPPs in the US. “We are more outward focused and are moving people offshore, focusing on transport, energy and renewables,” especially in the past six to eight months, says Ross Israel, head of global infrastructure at QIC in an interview with Inframation.
Like many rival Australian funds, QIC has been lured by the sheer depth of opportunity outside Australia, where government privatisations and big-ticket auctions have tapered off in the last two years.
Investing on behalf of around 30 institutional investors globally including California Public Employees Retirement System and Australia’s Future Fund, QIC has significant dry powder: there is about AUD 2bn (USD 1.43bn) to deploy between its pooled fund, the Global Infrastructure Fund (QGIF), and separate managed accounts. Looking ahead, further fundraising is not planned and “there’s not likely to be any for a while”, says Israel, adding: “Deploying the capital we’ve got is the main focus of 2019 and 2020.”
Investing globally is very different to Australia, however, and Israel says his 43-strong team are now working much harder to identify opportunities both small and large. Europe, in particular, is proving very competitive and auction processes are more structured, Israel notes. Regulatory and cultural differences also make it difficult to gain an edge over larger European funds. In the recent sales of a number of Scandinavian utilities, for example, having local institutional partners allowed greater insight into political dynamics and business plan implementation to local and regional issues. This can provide greater conviction in bidding, he says.