Leaders of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board are growing increasingly vocal about the risks to Britain’s investment climate as the political fallout from Brexit continues.
CPPIB, which manages the investments for the Canada Pension Plan, has billions of dollars invested in Britain across a wide range of asset classes. More narrowly, CPPIB’s role as a major global investor in infrastructure may put it in the crosshairs of a government led by the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, if it were to prevail in a future election.
Mr. Corbyn’s party has promised widespread nationalizations of many privately owned utilities, such as water-distribution companies, reversing the great privatization movement of four decades ago. “We have to do what [Margaret] Thatcher did in reverse,” Jon Lansman, founder of the Corbyn support group Momentum, told the Financial Times.
Since 2006, CPPIB and its partners have owned the parent of Anglian Water, a company that serves millions of customers in the east of England. CPPIB put just over $1-billion into the investment at the time.
Mr. Corbyn’s platform, however, suggests Anglian would return to government ownership with CPPIB and its partners paid, at best, less than market value.
Alain Carrier, CPPIB’s London-based senior managing director and head of international investing, has spoken out about CPPIB’s concern in recent interviews. He told the Sunday Times he was “very cautious” about new investments in Britain.
“A number of things the U.K. was known for – stable regulatory environment, stable political environment, transparency – one may wonder whether these are weaker or under threat at this point,” he told the newspaper in an interview published Sunday. “The U.K. has benefited tremendously from its reputation as a stable jurisdiction.”
The paper said Mr. Carrier said Britain was “not uninvestable,” but that “valuations have to be looked at very carefully."
CPPIB has moved its equity stake in Anglian to Hong Kong, which has a treaty with Britain limiting asset expropriation, CPPIB confirmed to The Globe and Mail on Sunday.
All told, about 5.6 per cent of CPPIB’s $400-billion global portfolio is invested in Britain, including stocks, bonds, private companies, real estate and infrastructure.
“In looking after the best interests of contributors and beneficiaries, it isn’t off place to politely remind local policy makers where we invest that not all capital is the same,” CPPIB spokesman Michel Leduc said Sunday via e-mail. “Some capital, from pension funds, is defined as ‘patient, productive and engaged.’ It isn’t hot money, it helps build socially important things like infrastructure and we act like owners. ... If policy-makers make things unattractive, then they lose that special type of capital."
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