In­fra­struc­ture fund

Finweek English Edition - - IN THE NEWS -

Af­ter a pro­tracted dis­ci­plinary process t hat even­tu­ally re­sulted in a dis­missal that raised more ques­tions than an­swers, for­mer prin­ci­ple ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer John Oliphant has called time on his as­so­ci­a­tion with t he Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees Pen­sion Fund (GEPF). He is now in the process of set­ting up Gaia In­vest­ment Part­ners to ful­fil some­thing very close to his heart: in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment. When un­tena GEPF? Late last year I was re­flect­ing on my own fu­ture and plans for 2015. In that process I came to the con­clu­sion that I would be bet­ter off and en­er­gised in a new ven­ture than to con­tinue to pur­sue the mat­ter fur­ther. Re­gard­less of the mer­its of the case for or against me, th­ese is­sues tend to divide the team and the board, and that is not good for the or­gan­i­sa­tion. I there­fore felt it would be bet­ter for the or­gan­i­sa­tion and I to start 2015 on a more pos­i­tive note than be­ing en­gaged in mean­ing­less legal ar­gu­ments. There is also a new board, and I felt it was un­fair to them to carry the bur­den of pre­vi­ous board de­ci­sions. The new board should just in­stall new lead­er­ship and rebuild the or­gan­i­sa­tion. did you rea lise it was ble to go back to the Do you thin k you we re un­fai rly treate d by the GEPF? I think the whole mat­ter could have been han­dled dif­fer­ently. I had a good re­la­tion­ship with the board un­der Arthur Moloto [the chair­per­son re­spon­si­ble for sus­pend­ing him]. I put in a good innings: I came in when the fund had as­sets of R700bn and we got that to R1tr un­der my watch. We also ini­ti­ated some good pro­grammes: the de­vel­op­men­tal in­vest­ment frame­work and the Code for Re­spon­si­ble In­vest­ing (CRISA). So I am proud of my track record. How­ever, I wish to make it clear that it was a dis­agree­ment over an is­sue – I am not fight­ing with the GEPF. I be­came the head of in­vest­ments at the age of 26, and the fund’s prin­ci­pal ex­ec­u­tive at the age of 30. So this was an or­gan­i­sa­tion that saw some­thing in me and be­lieved in me. They gave me an op­por­tu­nity to run a very im­por­tant in­sti­tu­tion at a young age, and I am grate­ful for that, de­spite the dis­ap­point­ment at the end. What are your plans for Gaia In­vest ment Partne rs? We all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to build South Africa. I put in a good innings in the public sec­tor, and I’m go­ing to put in a great innings in the pri­vate sec­tor. Africa is, in many ways, the last fron­tier and it’s stif led in terms of en­ergy and in­fra­struc­ture.

I see in­fra­struc­ture as a stand-alone as­set class. It con­sists of long-life as­sets that can match long-life li­a­bil­i­ties for in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors l ike pen­sion f unds. So I am team­ing up with Field­stone Africa, who have deal­struc­tur­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on the con­ti­nent dat­ing back to 1990, and are one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced in terms of do­ing en­ergy and in­fra­struc­ture deals.

We think that SA’s en­ergy mar­ket is the op­por­tu­nity of a l ife­time for in­vestors, so we’ll be start­ing in the r enew­able en­erg y s pace. We a r e con­fi­dent that we will con­clude about R1.3bn worth of deals be­fore t he of­fi­cial launch of Gaia. And we in­tend to have all the ex­per­tise – tech­ni­cal and f inan­cial – in house in or­der to as­sess and man­age th­ese in­vest­ments prop­erly. So if a tur­bine breaks down, we have the en­gi­neers who know ex­actly what needs to hap­pen to get it back up and run­ning.

John Oliphant

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