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Investing in APAC infrastructure

Ontario Teachers' Head of Infrastructure in Asia Pacific (APAC) shares his perspective on opportunities in the region and the importance of being agile and flexible

In a recent story in Infrastructure Investor magazine, Bruce Crane, Senior Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Infrastructure & Natural Resources, sat down with the publication to discuss Ontario Teachers’ Infrastructure strategy in APAC, including its long-term commitment to the region, its agile investment approach and its recent investment in New Zealand's mobile towers.


Investing in the region's dynamic economy over the long term

One of Ontario Teachers' earliest investment in the APAC region was the Sydney Desalination Plant in Australia, with a 50% stake acquired in 2012, later increasing to 60% in 2020. In that same year, Ontario Teachers’ set up an APAC infrastructure team, led by Crane, in its recently opened Singapore office. "One of the reasons we opened a Singapore office [in 2020] was to set up an infrastructure group in the region with the idea that we would have a team based in Singapore that would be APAC-focused – not only focusing on Australia and New Zealand, but also India, Southeast Asia and North Asia,” Crane says. With offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and most recently Mumbai, Ontario Teachers' is now strategically placed among some of the most dynamic economies in APAC.


A 'one-size doesn't fit all' agile investing strategy

An important element in Ontario Teachers’ Infrastructure strategy is the ability to remain agile and flexible. “It’s recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all, with different sectors for different countries, and slightly different entry points or platform strategies, as well,” Crane says.

It’s also a strategy likely to withstand today’s uncertain macroeconomic and geopolitical landscape. “We’re not naïve to the global challenges that are going on, but there are always challenges and the current set of challenges are ones that, if anything, highlight the importance of infrastructure versus other asset classes.” 


Scaling new heights with mobile communication towers

With the recent acquisition of New Zealand’s 2degrees Mobile's passive mobile telecommunications tower portfolio – consisting of 1,124 mobile towers across the country – and a 70 per cent stake in Spark New Zealand’s passive mobile tower infrastructure assets, Ontario Teachers’ have made their first investments into mobile towers.

 “It wasn’t a sector that we had invested in within the infrastructure class previously,” says Crane. “We had done data centres out of different asset classes but nothing within the infrastructure space. As this asset class has progressed towards a more typical infrastructure-like risk return, it became something that was more and more attractive to the infrastructure group.

“Of the broader telecom infrastructure sector, towers were the area that was deemed most attractive to us as investors and, as part of that, two geographies stood out. One was Australia and New Zealand, given the contract structuring, and the other region was the Americas.”


While Australia and New Zealand are about large one-off investments, India’s all about platforms that can continue to grow. That will continue to be a strategy that we will focus on in India.

Bruce Crane
Senior Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Infrastructure & Natural Resources, Infrastructure & Natural Resources

Four key areas of focus to date

The company's infrastructure team in APAC has been investing in four areas: regulated utilities, roads, renewables, and telecommunications. But, in a further refinement, it has been pinpointing its focus on those segments in specific geographies. That means, in India, Ontario Teachers' has been focusing on roads and renewables, while in Australia and New Zealand, the company has been focusing on regulated utilities and telecoms, and in Southeast Asia, all four sectors. As for North Asia, the emphasis has been on renewables at the development stage.

There is a particular interest in India, where Ontario Teachers’ opened its Mumbai office last year: “While Australia and New Zealand are about large one-off investments, India’s all about platforms that can continue to grow,” Crane says. “That will continue to be a strategy that we will focus on in India.”

Download the PDF version to read the full article.

Infrastructure in APAC:  A Selection of Ontario Teachers’ Investments

Equis Development

Equis Development

In 2020, Ontario Teachers’ purchased an approximate 50% stake in Equis Development, a Singapore-based infrastructure firm that focuses on developing renewables projects in the region. The company fits within Ontario Teachers’ greenfield and renewables strategy, which focuses on development stage opportunities through high-quality platforms. Among other benefits, this investment provided an entry point into the renewable energy market in Japan and South Korea.



Spark Infrastructure

Spark Infrastructure

In 2021, the company led a consortium, along with KKR and PSP, to take over Sydney-based electricity infrastructure owner Spark Infrastructures for A$5.2 billion. “That gave us a great, regulated, stable, large exposure in Australia. You combine that with the acquisition of Spark towers and subsequent signing for 2degrees towers in New Zealand, and that was our developed market – a very stable piece of the overall infrastructure portfolio,” Crane says.

Mahindra Susten

Mahindra Susten

Last September, it announced a strategic partnership with the Indian conglomerate Mahindra System and the acquisition of a 30% stake in the group’s renewable energy platform, Mahindra Susten. The plan is also to establish an infrastructure investment trust (InvIT). Ontario Teachers’ will deploy ~USD 450 million into the platform and InvIT over the next seven years. 

National Highways Infra Trust

National Highways Infra Trust

In 2021, the company took a 25%, ~USD 183 million stake in National Highway Infrastructure Trust (NHIT), which is the National Highways Authority of India’s infrastructure investment trust. NHIT has a portfolio of five toll roads in the Indian states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Karnataka spanning a total length of 390 km and a concession period of 30 years.