Blackstone on verge of raising $5bn infrastructure fund in boost for US construction
American private equity and investment giant Blackstone has said it is nearing completion on a $5bn fund which it will invest primarily in US infrastructure projects.
In the week that President Donald Trump outlined his desire to block Chinese investment in US technology firms, and with home motorcycle favourite Harley Davidson announcing plans to move some operations out of the country, this is a welcome move.
According to the Financial Times and Bloomberg, Blackstone expects to close on $2.5bn from public pension funds and institutional investors, with some of the other half coming from Saudi Arabia.
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It is thought that much of the focus will be on regenerating key US infrastructure like roads and airports.
This was a key pledge made by the US President during the election campaign and was reiterated during his inauguration speech. A commitment to spend or raise $1.7trn in investment over the next decade was made, however, these plans are yet to come into practice.
Last year Trump visited Saudi Arabia and secured a deal which would see the Kingdom match commitments made by outside investors up to $20bn.
Blomberg expects this first close to complete by the end of the week, slightly behind Blackstone’s schedule.
G7 launches global infrastructure investment for China’s BRI
The G7 Group has launched an infrastructure investment push aimed at countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The launch took place during the G7 summit in Cornwall. While no extra state funding for infrastructure schemes had been confirmed, the “Build Back Better World” (B3W) plan, part of the G7’s infrastructure investment, looked to attract private finance.
The summit’s communiqué described the plan as a “step change” in nations’ approach to infrastructure financing, while the White House said the B3W plan would be able to cover Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Indo-Pacific.
What is China’s Belt and Road Initiative? (BRI)
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is China’s programme to build both physical and digital infrastructure to connect several countries from Asia to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
It was adopted in 2013 by the Chinese government as a way of expanding the nation’s global influence. China’s motives for the plan include state sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity, and the protection of its political and social stability system. China is also using the plan to ensure continued economic and social development.
Why is the G7 Group competing with China?
While the reason for countering China’s BRI plan has not specifically been stated, official documents have suggested that it could be due to transparency, good governance, and “values”. However, in the past, the US has criticised the BRI projects, saying that they lack these qualities. Other opposition groups in recipient countries have also criticised the plan.
“Until now, we haven't offered a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards, and our way of doing business … [B3W] won't just be an alternative to the BRI, but we believe will beat the BRI by offering a higher-quality choice”, a senior administration official said in a news briefing.
However, a G7 spokesperson for the UK argued that there was more to the investment push than competing with China. He said: “This project stands on its own merits and is in line with the G7’s priorities on ensuring the world builds back better and greener from the pandemic”.
.Whether or not the G7’s investment initiative will be able to match China’s BRI is unclear, but a 2018 report from ICBC Standard Bank shows that after the first five years of the programme, some $330bn of transport and $266bn of energy projects were announced, underway or complete.