La Caisse unveils agreement with Québec government to carry out infrastructure projects
La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec announces today that it has concluded an agreement with the Québec government establishing an innovative business model for the execution of major infrastructure projects. The model updates the government’s business practices by entrusting la Caisse with the execution of infrastructure projects, which will speed up their delivery and strengthen Québec’s economic growth. For la Caisse, the deal represents an opportunity to grow Quebecers’ savings by developing and operating assets that will generate commercial returns.
Under the terms of the agreement, the government will identify projects that may present an interest for la Caisse. Assuming this interest is confirmed, la Caisse will become responsible for project planning, financing, development and operation. The government retains responsibility for setting broad project parameters and approving solutions presented by la Caisse on the basis of consultations with the various stakeholders. The government thus preserves its role as guardian of the public interest, while entrusting la Caisse, an independent public institution with extensive expertise in infrastructure, with project execution in accordance with global best practices and the highest standards of efficiency and transparency.
“Infrastructure has been central to our investment strategy for several years,” said Michael Sabia, President and Chief Executive Officer of la Caisse. “Our clients look for tangible projects that generate stable, predictable returns. Infrastructure is perfectly aligned with their long-term goals.
“Today’s agreement will allow us to increase our exposure to infrastructure while concretely putting our expertise to work for Québec’s economy,” Mr. Sabia continued. “These investments will generate returns that help to secure Quebecers’ retirement for the future. It’s a win-win partnership that benefits everyone.”
The launch of this business model depends upon the adoption of legislative amendments allowing for, among other things, the creation of a new infrastructure subsidiary for la Caisse. The Québec government has committed to introduce these amendments to the National Assembly as soon as possible.
The model envisions the execution of major public works according to global best practices and the delivery of projects of the highest quality, on time and on budget.
While the agreement announced today does not limit the scope of projects that can be carried out by la Caisse, two projects have been identified as priorities:
- A public transit system on Montréal’s new Champlain Bridge; and
- A public transit system linking downtown Montréal to the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport and the West Island.
According to preliminary studies commissioned by the Québec government, these projects are expected to require financing of approximately CA$5 billion.
Based on its international experience, la Caisse is aiming to complete both projects by the end of 2020 at the latest. In addition to the timely adoption of legislative amendments allowing for the creation of its new subsidiary, achieving this objective will depend on the efficient delivery of permits and other required authorizations.
A new model for infrastructure projects
Assuming it is approved by the Québec National Assembly, this new business model will see the government select infrastructure projects that could be executed by la Caisse, set broad guidelines, and make the final decision to go ahead with projects on the basis of options proposed by la Caisse.
It is understood that la Caisse will only assume responsibility for projects that have the potential to generate commercial returns that serve the interests of its clients, that is, all Quebecers who save for retirement. An independent financial expert will certify that la Caisse’s returns are in line with market standards for comparable projects.
By managing projects from start to finish, la Caisse can enhance process efficiency, shorten delivery times and meet the highest industry standards. All infrastructure projects covered by the agreement will be financed by equity investment and long-term debt. Insofar as la Caisse assumes ownership and control of a project, the impact of such infrastructure projects on public finances is significantly reduced, because the project is excluded from the government’s balance sheet. Only the government’s financial contribution, if any, would be included on its balance sheet.
All projects executed under this agreement will involve the following three stages:
- Planning and solution development;
- Review and approval; and
- Project execution.
For every project, la Caisse will co-ordinate calls for tender. As controlling shareholder, la Caisse will encourage vigorous competition to control costs and access optimal solutions. Bidders for contracts worth CA$5 million or more will have to be qualified as such by the Autorité des marchés financiers. An independent auditor will also review the integrity of the tendering process.
“Throughout the process, our work will be guided by three principles. Efficiency: because we intend to deliver on time and on budget. Transparency: because public trust is a key ingredient for success. Collaboration: because we know that the government of Québec, municipalities, metropolitan communities and transportation authorities all have critical roles to play at every step of the process,” said Mr. Sabia.
La Caisse’s infrastructure expertise
With over 15 years of experience in infrastructure investment in Canada, Europe, the United States and Australia, la Caisse has developed extensive knowledge of global best practices in infrastructure.
In the transportation sector, in 2005, la Caisse participated as a lead investor in the construction and operation of The Canada Line, the rapid-rail service connecting Vancouver Airport with downtown. Completed on schedule and on budget, the rail line covers more than 20 km, transports more than 120,000 passengers daily and is considered one of the most successful greenfield infrastructure projects in the country.
In the United Kingdom, la Caisse is a shareholder in Heathrow Express, the rail service linking Paddington Station and Heathrow Airport, with more than 5.8 million passengers each year, and a shareholder in Gatwick Express, the fast train linking central London and Gatwick Airport, with more than 4.7 million passengers annually. La Caisse is also one of two shareholders in Keolis, a global public transit operator active in 15 countries and transporting more than 2.5 billion commuters each year, in cities ranging from Melbourne to Boston.
A business model creating opportunities around the world
Québec is not the only government around the world facing the need to develop or renovate major infrastructure. That is why la Caisse believes this business model could offer other jurisdictions in North America and beyond a promising solution to build and operate important infrastructure projects without burdening the public balance sheet.
Subject to the approval of amendments by the National Assembly, la Caisse’s new infrastructure subsidiary, to be called CDPQ Infra, will actively explore these business opportunities. Projects executed by la Caisse in Québec will serve as evidence of its know-how in project development, management and operation. Once created, CDPQ Infra is expected to become a central component of la Caisse’s business strategy for years to come.
“Through our real estate subsidiary, Ivanhoé Cambridge, la Caisse extended its activities beyond pure financing a long time ago,” explained Mr. Sabia. “Ivanhoé plans the development of real estate projects, oversees their construction and then manages the assets. In this way, it has become one of the 10 largest real estate operators in the world. It is this success we want to replicate around the world in the infrastructure sector, starting in Québec, the market we know best. Establishing an infrastructure subsidiary based on our extensive expertise in this sector aligns perfectly with our strategy for the future of la Caisse.”
ABOUT LA CAISSE DE DÉPÔT ET PLACEMENT DU QUÉBEC
La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is a long-term institutional investor that manages funds primarily for public and parapublic pension and insurance plans. As at June 30, 2014, it held $214.7 billion in net assets. As one of Canada’s leading institutional fund managers, la Caisse invests in major financial markets, private equity, infrastructure and real estate, globally.
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