Northill's takeover of Hastings Funds Management complicated by investors

Some of the largest superannuation fund investors in Hastings Funds Management have thrown up roadblocks to the sale of the business as British suitor Northill Capital undertakes due diligence.

Northill agreed in November to buy Hastings from Westpac Banking Corporation for between AUD150m and AUD160m (€102m).

“The sale is not a done deal yet,” a major investor, who declined to be named, told IPE Real Assets. “There will be more developments in the Hastings saga.”

One of the problems relates to Hastings’ Utilities Trust of Australia (UTA), which manages assets valued at AUD5.6bn, including airports in Melbourne, Perth and Cairns, power networks, and other entities in Australia and overseas.

An industry source confirmed to IPE Real Assets that investors in UTA have offered the management rights for tender and have specifically excluded Hastings from tendering. It is unclear who would be prepared to tender for the management rights.

Industry sources said the frustration of UTA investors is not directed at Northill but had been simmering for months after Westpac’s two unsuccessful attempts to sell Hastings.

Sources said UTA unitholders are concerned over the impact that uncertainty arising from the sale process is having on the management team and their investments.

UTA investors called an extraordinary meeting this week to vote on a number of key changes to the fund’s constitution, including signing off on redemption windows.

Investors in another Hastings-managed fund, The Infrastructure Fund (TIF), at an extraordinary general meeting in August voted to leave Hastings over the next 12 months.

TIF has stakes in infrastructure assets, including desalination plants, power grids and ports, valued at AUD1.88bn.

TIF is mulling its options, which include reappointing Hastings as manager if its ownership stabilises, or seeking an alternative manager.

The source said Northill, which itself did not comment, will have to work through all these issues before finalising any deal.

Hastings is one of Australia’s largest infrastructure fund managers, controlling assets valued at more than AUD14.3bn on behalf of institutional investors, including some of Australia’s largest super funds.

Investors include CBUS, Sunsuper, HESTA and the Victorian Fund Management Corporation, which manages the pension liabilities of the Victorian state government.

CBUS is the biggest investor, according to its 2017 annual report, with AUD1.02bn committed to Hastings – up from AUD949m the previous financial year.

Sunsuper’s annual report shows it had AUD276m invested with Hastings at 30 June. Others did not disclose the value of their investments in their annual reports.

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