UK working to get pension funds to finance infrastructure: Sunday Telegraph

October 8, 2016 5:57 PM EDT

FILE PHOTO - A worker emerges after the tunnelling machine has made the breakthrough into the station structure at Canary Wharf, in east London June 11, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning


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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's government is working to find ways to get domestic pension funds to invest in new nuclear power, rail and broadband projects ahead of a mid-year budget statement next month, the Sunday Telegraph reported late on Saturday.

The newspaper cited a government source as saying the projects would offer funds a higher return than standard government bonds, and that Britain's finance ministry would consider underwriting some of the initial risk of projects.

"If you've got a long-term infrastructure need why wouldn't we be looking to put sensible money into that," the source was quoted as saying.

"Pension funds need to invest their money, they don't want it sitting in cash or government bonds. If you can put it into something that can get them a decent return, that is far better," the source said.

Some British pension funds have struggled to find sufficient high-yielding, safe investments to meet their liabilities, while the uncertainty following Britain's vote to leave the European Union has sapped private businesses' willingness to invest.

As well as infrastructure bonds, another option under consideration is to allow British cities, which have very limited borrowing powers, to raise up to 1 billion pounds ($1.24 billion) in bonds underwritten by central government.

The report did not say if the government saw pension fund finance as better value for taxpayers than raising money directly from bond markets, where borrowing money for 30 years carries an annual interest rate of under 2 percent .

Government efforts in previous years to find a way to bring private money into long-term infrastructure projects made relatively little progress.

Prime Minister Theresa May's director of policy John Godfrey, who the Sunday Telegraph said was understood to be leading the work, joined the government after nine years at investment managers Legal & General .

Canadian pension funds have billions of pounds invested in British rail projects and airports, sometimes earning annual returns of over 10 percent, but tolerate a greater degree of initial risk, the newspaper reported.

New finance minister Philip Hammond is due to present his first budget update on Nov. 23, and spoke last week of the need for more long-term infrastructure investment to boost Britain's economic productivity.

($1 = 0.8042 pounds)

(Reporting by David Milliken)



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