IFM Investors chair lays out priorities

The $113 billion manager will look towards congested cities to deploy future capital but nothing as big as its Westconnex investment is on the horizon, newly-appointed chair Greg Combet said in a media call today.

The former Labor federal minister took over as the chair of the super-fund-owned fund manager and Industry Super Australia (ISA) yesterday. Both Garry Weaven (IFM) and Peter Collins (ISA) stepped down from their respective chair roles yesterday.

Combet said it is a priority for IFM Investors to make investments to help build Australia's future.

"Another priority will be how we can build the country in partnership with the government," Combet said.

"We want to deploy the capital we have [on projects that] deliver returns to super members but also help the economy and the society."

As an example, Combet cited the Melbourne Airport rail link from Southern Cross station in which IFM Investors put up $5 billion as a part of a consortium whose other members were Melbourne Airport, Metro Trains Australia ad Southern Cross Station, matching the Victorian and federal government's investment.

However, nothing as big as the Westconnex bid is on the horizon, Combet said. He said IFM Investors will look to work with government to invest in projects especially in congested cities and those that engage the business community.

This would mean getting engaged more than it has previously been, especially in greenfield opportunities, he said.

IFM Investors led the consortium to acquire a majority stake in the $17 billion WestConnex project. The 51% stake eventually went to the Sydney Transport Partners consortium in August.

IFM has 329 clients in 19 countries. Earlier this year, it opened a Switzerland office, set up an infrastructure fund in North America and returned a part of fees to clients after reaping better than expected returns on its investments.

The business has four main parts: a $51 billion unlisted infrastructure business, a 20-year-old infrastructure debt business that now has $32 billion,  a  $27 billion listed equities business that makes it the third-largest equities manager in the country, and lastly a private equity business that is mostly domestic and has $1.8 billion currently.

Combet said the fund manager might look to develop its private equity business, while unlisted infrastructure equity and debt were both growing parts of its base.

As the chair of Industry Super Australia, Combet stuck by the plan to increase superannuation guarantee to 12% from the current 9.5% which has contested been contested by Grattan Institute in the past.

He reiterated that industry funds were beating retail funds in performance, as published in the Productivity Commission report's research, but said ISA doesn't believe retail funds should be wiped off by the government all together if they perform well.

Read more: IFM InvestorsWestConnexISAGreg CombetIndustry Super AustraliaMelbourne AirportSouthern Cross StationGarry WeavenGrattan InstituteLaborMetro Trains AustraliaNorth AmericaPeter CollinsProductivity CommissionSwitzerlandSydney Transport Partners
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