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Infrastructure Investment

Updated on April 24, 2024
Article byRutan Bhattacharyya
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Infrastructure Investment?

Infrastructure investments refer to investments made to improve, develop, and maintain crucial physical systems and structures supporting economic activities. Such investments can positively impact productivity by minimizing communication and production costs, offering improved access to resources and markets, and enhancing supply chain efficiency.

Infrastructure Investment Meaning

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Infrastructure may include sewage systems, roads, energy facilities, public amenities, transportation networks, etc. Investors often allocate their funds to infrastructure as it can provide them with predictable and stable free cash flows (FCF). Typically, institutional investors, private companies, and governments invest in infrastructure directly, or they allocate funds via public-private partnerships. Common types of this investment are transportation, telecommunications, and energy.

Key Takeaways

  • Infrastructure investment refers to the allocation of funds to an alternative asset class that comprises physical assets seen in everyday life. These investments are essential for driving a nation’s economic growth.
  • There are some key infrastructure investment characteristics. For example, they have leverage, which exposes investors to financial risk. Moreover, they are typically long-term investments and illiquid.  
  • Political risks and the high capital requirement are two noteworthy disadvantages of infrastructure investments.
  • Low volatility and the ability to offer protection against inflation are two key advantages of this type of investment.

How Does Infrastructure Investment Work?

Infrastructure investment refers to investments made typically by organizations or governments in an alternative asset class that encompasses long-lived, capital-intensive and real assets offering essential services to the general public. These investments play an important part in driving economic growth and development. Moreover, such investments appeal to investors because of their ability to provide stable cash flows and predictable returns over the long term. That said, one must note that usually, these investments require long-term commitment and substantial investment amounts.

Investments in infrastructure have become popular owing to its demand-side and supply-side growth. While many investors are allocating their money to infrastructure, contributing to the demand-side growth, the government investment opportunities result in supply-side growth. This happens through the privatization of certain services and infrastructure financing.

Some key infrastructure investment characteristics are as follows:

  • They can generate stable, adjusted long-term cash flows that reflect inflation and economic growth.
  • Infrastructure is non-cyclical. Hence, investments in this alternative asset class can generate predictable returns.
  • They come with well-defined risks.
  • Generally, these are long-term investments.
  • These investments are usually regulated and monopolistic.
  • The utilization of leverage in the case of such investments enhances investors’ returns.
  • These investments are often significant from a strategic standpoint.
  • Often, the assets can have low liquidity.

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Types

The most popular types of this investment are as follows:

#1 – Transportation

Transportation investments include different assets like —

  • Ports: Investing in ports can improve a nation’s trading competitiveness and capacity.
  • Railways: Such investments involve developing and maintaining railway stations, lines, and related facilities.
  • Airports: These investments facilitate the faster transportation of goods and ensure efficient operations. 

This category also includes roads.

#2 – Social Infrastructure 

This involves making investments in the following —

  • Healthcare Facilities: As the name suggests, such investments involve hospitals, medical equipment, clinics, etc. They make healthcare services more accessible.
  • Education Facilities: Allocating funds to education infrastructure offers skill development and learning opportunities. This leads to a more productive and educated workforce that contributes to economic growth over the long term. 

Note that investments made in affordable housing infrastructure also fall under this category.

#3 – Energy

Energy infrastructure investing includes allocating funds to these areas:

  • Power Generation: Allocating funds to power generation infrastructure helps meet a nation’s increasing energy requirements. Moreover, it ensures a steady power supply.
  • Renewable Energy: These investments promote a sustainable energy mix besides minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Transmission And Distribution: Investing in such facilities helps ensure power supply dependability nationwide.

Besides the ones mentioned above, there are two other types of infrastructure investments. They are telecommunications and water sanitation. While the former includes investments in mobile networks, broadband networks, and satellite communication, the latter involves allocating funds to infrastructure related to sewage systems, waste management, and water supply.

Examples

Let us look at a few infrastructure investment examples to understand the concept better.

Example #1

Suppose the government of Country ABC makes an infrastructure investment worth billions of dollars to open 3 new international airports in different parts of the nation. Once the airports commenced operations, government revenue received a significant boost. Moreover, the cash flow stability improved owing to the long-term contracts with major airlines. Note that the new airports also enabled the faster transportation of high-value products.

Example #2

The United States Development Finance Corporation and the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund of India have exchanged letters of intent to set up a joint fund worth $1 billion for the purpose of renewable energy infrastructure investment in India. This fund’s objective will include minimizing the cost of capital and accelerating the deployment of emerging green technology, battery projects, and greenfield renewable energy in India.

Benefits

Let us look at some benefits of this type of investment.

  • It results in job creation in fields like engineering and construction.
  • Investments made in social infrastructure can enhance individuals’ overall quality of life.
  • These investments have the potential to attract foreign investment as they create an investment climate that supports economic growth.
  • It can enhance productivity through reduced communication and transportation costs. Moreover, this type of investment can offer better access to resources and markets.
  • The investments can promote regional development.
  • They are associated with low volatility as they have less exposure to short-term market sentiments.
  • These investments can offer protection against inflation.
  • Infrastructure assets have high longevity as they are generally not prone to technology obsolescence.

Risks

These investments carry certain risks. They are as follows:

  • Leverage is a feature of such investments; it results in a financial risk. After all, high-leverage amounts can lead to substantial interest payable. One may incur significant losses if the revenue diverges from the expected amount.
  • These investments may carry environmental, social, and governance or ESG risks. For example, constructing a bridge through a certain locality may lead to objections from those living in that region.
  • These investments require substantial capital, as noted above.
  • Another key disadvantage of such investments is that political factors can influence them.

Infrastructure Investment vs Real Estate

Infrastructure and real estate investments involve allocating funds to two different asset classes. While investing in them can help diversify a portfolio, knowing their key differences is essential to know whether either of them is suitable for one’s financial goals, investment time horizon, and risk appetite. So, let us find out how they differ.

Infrastructure InvestmentReal Estate
This involves allocating funds to basic organizational and physical structures required for a society to operate. Examples of the assets include roads, communication systems, etc.  Real estate investing involves allocating funds to properties, lands, or structures built on the lands. 
In this case, types include transportation, water and sanitation, telecommunications, energy, and social infrastructure.Types of this investment include real estate investment trusts, residential real estate, crowdfunding platforms, raw land, and commercial real estate. 
Common risks associated with these investments are ESG, political, and leverage risks. In real estate investing, risks include liquidity, inflation, market risk, interest risk, etc.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How do infrastructure investments support the U.S. economy?

The primary reason why these investments generate more jobs than a surge in household consumption within the U.S. is because the share of spending within the country, as opposed to the imports’ purchase, is a lot higher with them.

2. What is the ROI on infrastructure investments?

To compute the return on such investments, one can follow the steps below:
– Divide the investment’s net returns by the overall cost incurred
– Express the result obtained in percentage

3. What are the risks for host countries in international infrastructure investments?

It is straightforward for opposition parties to appeal to nationalism, claiming that the government sold itself out to foreign investors by enabling them to take control of crucial infrastructure. Also, the host nation’s continuing requirement for some other foreign investment may not offer adequate security, which is much needed for threatened investors.

4. What is private infrastructure investment?

This involves an infrastructure fund that is a sector-specific private equity fund making only infrastructure investments.

This article has been a guide to what is Infrastructure Investment. Here, we explain its types, examples, benefits, risk, and comparison with real estate. You may also find some useful articles here –

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