Date: February 28th 2018   Location: Metropolitan Club, New York

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“I thought the conference was very good.  One of the best in the last few years. Good speakers in meaningful roles, and good perspectives on the industry at a time of change.  Breadth of coverage of sectors.  I very much enjoyed [the conference] and learned a lot.”

Marc Powell, Partner, PwC

 


Focus and Agenda

About our 2018 event

To no one's surprise, the last 12 months' worth of North American brownfield activity remained almost exclusive to the energy and power industries. Only a handful of deals fell into the transportation or telecom category, which was highlighted by the Northwest Parkway (USD 761m) and Dulles Greenway (USD 445m) sales. It's quite remarkable that year after year the world's mostly highly coveted infrastructure asset, US transportation, hardly registers any activity. As capital sits idle, investors and bankers are left asking the same question: when will lawmakers make legislative changes? Year after year, when the topic is broached in a public forum as it has since the 2016 presidential election; political automatons fill broadcast airwaves with cries of meeting infrastructure needs with the same old means. Sometimes spending on infrastructure is approved in Congress, most of the time it is not. Much to the chagrin of investors, this state-induced cycle has proven to be an effective feedback loop.

However, the election of US President Donald Trump could represent a real opportunity for investors. While the mercurial New Yorker has wavered on the degree of private investor involvement in infrastructure dealmaking, his administration has floated a number of ideas, such as asset recycling, FAA reform, an infrastructure fund, tax law change and others, which would have a direct impact on brownfield M&A volume. While few details have emerged, the first tangible efforts derived from an inchoate infrastructure plan came recently when the White House issued an EO to relevant federal departments to streamline and shorten much denounced environmental review processes. Congressional Republicans are pushing for FAA reform that would allow airport concessionaires to expend operating cash flows on non-operating assets, which would be seen as boon for nearby, logistically relevant infrastructure assets. How such reforms will shape and mold future dealmaking will be explored at this year’s forum.

Pundits have also mused that they expect to see some of the larger infrastructure investors, who have been curiously absent from lobbying circles, to enter the Washington DC and state capital fray. After all, it is no secret that reputable infrastructure funds have raised mountains of cash over the last few months - see Blackstone's USD 40bn behemoth Global Infrastructure Fund. The deep pockets of institutional investor may well give GPs anxiety who in turn will feel pressure to win highly sought-after assets in the US transportation industry. As too many dollars chase too few deals, this will force infrastructure investors' hands at convincing lawmakers and government actors to broaden the asset universe by allowing private investment in ports, bridges, roads, tunnels, etc. Panelists will explore how these relationships will evolve over time.

Meanwhile, officials at the DOE and FERC continue to wrestle with the hardships related to electricity wholesale markets. Many feel that state-subsidized solar and wind are making it difficult for unsubsidized power plants to recover costs. Dozens of solutions have been explored, from government intervention to reforming the power auction process. However, a distressed merchant power industry awaits clarity while it hemorrhages cash and assets to private equity firms. In addition to pending public policy disruption, utilities and power providers are embracing technology-driven disruption by adopting battery energy storage systems and distributed energy resources. Turning to the energy sector, midstream O&G is undergoing its own transformation in the wake of the 2014-15 commodities bust. MLPs are refocusing their efforts on lucrative basins, such as the Permian, and corresponding assets like LNG facilities. However, the public markets' faith in the pipeline business remains shaken, which has pushed GPs to pursue atypical funding mechanisms via crossed-wall offerings, preferred equity offerings and at-the-market programs. What opportunities in the energy and power industries will present themselves to infrastructure investors will be explored as part of our 2018 agenda. 

 

 

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