Dutch pension giant PGGM has increased its stake in its joint venture with construction company BAM and the partners have started discussions about increasing their joint investments in infrastructure.

PGGM paid €39m to BAM for upping its stake by 10 percentage points to 90% in the joint venture. It is looking to commit an additional undisclosed amount to increase its investments in infrastructure projects.

Almost all of the €620m the €252bn pension investor committed in 2011 has now been invested. The two partners said they still see “plenty of opportunities” in infrastructure investments despite the coronavirus crisis.

Through the partnership with BAM, PGGM invests in public-private partnerships in 23 infrastructure projects in the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany, ranging from the building of the Dutch High Court in The Hague to the Silvertown tunnel in London.

The impact of the coronavirus crisis on these projects had so far been negligible, said Natasha Mol, investment manager at PGGM.

“This is because we get a fixed fee from the governments involved in the project,” she said. So far governments have proved to be reliable creditors.”

She added that the valuation of the infrastructure projects had also remained stable, resulting in positive returns in the second quarter of the year.

Although BAM suffered a net loss of €235m in the first half of 2020 as it has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, PGGM insists it did not increase its stake in the joint venture with the construction company with the goal of helping BAM weather the crisis.

“This is a conscious choice to increase our investments in this type of assets,” said Mol. “The long-term horizon and stable returns fit well with the demands of our client [healthcare pension fund] PFZW.”

In another recent transaction, APG’s decision to increase its stake in Via Outlets was partly motivated by a desire to help out its other shareholder, UK real estate company Hammerson.

“On the contrary, I don’t rule out that governments will increase investments because of the crisis”

Natasha Mol, investment manager at PGGM

Though the coronavirus crisis has put a strain on government finances, Mol believes it will not negatively impact the ability of governments to finance infrastructure projects in the future.

“I haven’t received any signals of this kind,” she said. “On the contrary, I don’t rule out that governments will increase investments because of the crisis, for example in healthcare and education. And this may happen more often via public-private partnerships.”

PGGM also invests in schools and hospitals through its infrastructure fund.

In addition to roads and buildings, PGGM also invests in renewable energy assets within its infrastructure portfolio, which totals €8.9bn. It achieved a return on its infrastructure investments of -3.1% in the first half of this year, compared to a return of +7% in 2019.

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