UK - Pension fund and private equity investors could mop up UK infrastructure assets in a second major wave of privatisation, according to a report by the Adam Smith Institute, a free-market think tank.

According to report author Nigel Hawkins, assets including utilities and transport infrastructure could raise £16bn (€19.2bn) for the cash-strapped government.

They include Scottish Water, London Underground and the UK's remaining ports.

However, Hawkins acknowledged an earlier tranche of privatisations in the 1980s and 1990s had taken the most malleable assets. 

"Basically, the government didn't privatise many of these assets initially because there were legal or other difficulties attached to them.

"Instead, they privatised the unproblematic assets and left the more difficult ones in the public sector."

The sale of London Underground seems "certain to be deferred for many years", the report said - not least because of regulatory disagreements and significant financial problems. 

Network Rail - which operates the UK's railways - is £22.3bn in debt, with questionable governance structures.

It is expected to restructure the network into larger franchises.

In addition, legal complexity and the negligible size of some of these assets may be more difficult to privatise - despite potential demand for long-term infrastructure assets from pension funds.

The report also forecast significant sell-offs of military property assets to generate one-off capital receipts.

Hawkins suggested the Ministry of Defence had consistently understated the value of its assets to prevent investors from cherry picking.

A spokesperson for Defence Estates, which manages Ministry of Defence property assets, said: "The Ministry of Defence keeps the size and location of its bases under constant review and is committed to ensuring the defence estate is no larger than necessary to meet operational needs."

Hawkins said an upcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review would identify decommissioning land as a major contributor to public finances. 

However, the spokesman pointed out that a development plan already set out estate priorities to 2030.