GLOBAL - The CAD55.1bn (€41.7bn) Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, one of Canada's largest pension funds, has launched the first stage of its $20bn (€15bn) infrastructure investment vehicle, attracting $2.5bn in commitments from three Japanese investors.

The proposed Global Strategic Investment Alliance (GISA), under development at OMERS Strategic Investments for more than two years, has so far raised $7.5bn of capital, with OMERS providing $5bn.

The remaining $2.5bn has been supplied by a Mitsubishi Corporation-led consortium and Japan's Pension Fund Association (PFA), which at the end of 2010 had JPY10.5trn (€97.4bn) in assets under management.

The consortium committed $1.25bn through the Mitsubishi-led Infrastructure Investment Partners and consists of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Mizuho Corporate Bank, with PFA providing the remainder.

GISA will only target infrastructure assets worth more than $2bn, according to a statement from Mitsubishi, with targets for acquisition being core assets "mainly" in Europe and North America, such as airports, railways, ports, power generation and distribution and gas pipelines.

Jacques Demers, president and chief executive of OMERS Strategic Investments, said he was pleased to be partnering with "sophisticated investors in pursuit of high-quality, large infrastructure assets".

He added that he expected the fund would soon grow in size.

"Based upon the feedback in the market, we anticipate welcoming a number of other forward-thinking pension plans and other long-term institutional investors from around the world into the GSIA over the next 12 to 18 months, thereby bringing significant additional  - $1bn plus - commitments to the programme."

A statement by OMERS said GISA was looking for "like-minded, long-term" investors in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, as well as Europe and North America.

Many of the major investors in Asia-Pacific and specifically the Middle East large enough to participate would be sovereign wealth funds - such as the China Investment Corporation (CIC) and the Qatar Investment Authority - with CIC recently expressing an interest in European infrastructure.

OMERS has been working on GISA's launch since late 2009, with Demers telling delegates at a National Association of Pension Funds conference last year that he expected the regional allocation would be a minimum of 80% in Western Europe, including the UK, and North America, excluding Mexico.

As of the end of last year, the scheme allocated 15% of its CAD$55bn to infrastructure, with a further 13% in real estate.