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IPE special report May 2018

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UK tax exemption secures £9bn for infrastructure, private placement

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The UK government has announced an exemption to withholding tax on the interest from private placements, spurring a £9bn (€11.4bn) commitment from insurers and asset managers.

Six investment companies, backed by the Investment Management Association (IMA), have committed to providing finance to corporate private placements and infrastructure projects.

In yesterday’s Autumn Statement – the chancellor George Osborne’s economic update to Parliament – it was announced that the government would provide an exemption from withholding tax on interest from qualifying private placements. 

“[This will] help unlock new finance for businesses and infrastructure projects,” the government said.

A withholding tax is deducted from interest payments made to lenders of finance or on dividend payments.

While details on which private placements would qualify for exemption will be released next week, it is understood third-party funds and pension fund investors would also be exempt.

The six organisations funding the £9bn commitment include asset manager Allianz Global Investors (Allianz GI) and insurers Aviva, Friends Life, Prudential, Legal & General and Standard Life.

The chancellor said the exemption signalled the potential beginnings of an enduring private-placement market in the UK.

UK private-placement issuers accounted for around 21% of the global market at the end of October 2013, according to S&P.

This saw around £7bn issued to a mixture of US and UK lenders.

On the back of the announcement, Allianz GI said it was prepared to invest upward of £3bn in UK infrastructure debt over the next 3-5 years.

This is in addition to the £600m the company is already on track to invest by the end of 2014.

Deborah Zurkow, Allianz GI’s CIO for infrastructure debt, said: “Introducing a new tax exemption for private placements will act as an important step in helping unlock further international investment into UK infrastructure.”

Insurer Aviva also announced an immediate commitment of £500m to UK infrastructure debt projects, in addition to £500m allocated last year.

This will be done via Aviva Investors, the insurer’s asset management arm.

Friends Life, which this week agreed to be taken over by Aviva in a deal worth more than £5bn, is also party to the agreement.

It said the tax exemption would allow the company to continue its infrastructure and private-placement business, adding to the £1.5bn already invested.

Daniel Godfrey, chief executive at the IMA, added: “This measure is a significant boost to the development of the UK private-placement market.”

Yesterday’s Autumn Statement also announced a commitment to investigate the possibility of creating a long-term investment fund backed by tax revenues from shale-gas extraction in the North of England.

The government said it would legislate in the next Parliament, from May 2015, for a fund to “capture the economic benefits of shale gas for future generations, and ensure revenues are invested in the long-term economic health of the North to create jobs and investment”.

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