Our thinking

Cutting through the noise: Infrastructure in Asia-Pacific 2019

What's inside

From rural farmlands to modern megacities, the complex and diverse Asia-Pacific infrastructure sector continues to attract international investment. Our survey shows investors are very positive about future opportunities and analyses the countries and sectors attracting this optimism.

Executive summary

The Asia-Pacific infrastructure market is open for business and opportunities abound. However, as our exclusive survey reveals, the prevailing wisdom on sentiment, regions and sectors may be wide of the mark.

Asia-Pacific (APAC) is one of the most dynamic regions on the planet and its need for infrastructure investment is acute. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that the region needs US$1.7 trillion of infrastructure investment by 2030 to keep pace with climate change and economic growth.

With these sentiments in mind, White & Case, in association with Inframation Group, set out to investigate the prospects for infrastructure investment across the APAC region. We interviewed 100 global senior executives from institutional investment firms, private equity houses and investment banks to gauge their views on the current infrastructure investment opportunities.


In Q4 2018, White & Case, in partnership with Inframation Group, surveyed 100 senior-level direct equity investors and financial services firms who had developed, funded or invested in at least one APAC infrastructure project in the past 12 months, with a value in excess of US$100 million.

Respondent firms include investment funds, sponsors and developers, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, investment banks and financial institutions. Of those surveyed, 50 respondents were based in APAC, 25 were based in EMEA and 25 were based in the Americas.

The survey included a combination of qualitative and quantitative questions, and all interviews were conducted over the telephone by appointment. Results were analysed and collated by Inframation Group, and all responses are anonymised and presented in aggregate.

The research has proven to be illuminating, as a number of the findings have gone against the grain of current popular thought. Among other key findings, several intriguing themes have emerged:

Regional positivity trumps global uncertainty

Despite the infrastructure gap, the threat of trade wars and global political instability, the outlook from respondents is overwhelmingly positive—88 per cent of firms are expanding their teams in the region in 2019. Nobody is predicting any contraction.

Roads lead the way

If 2018 was the year for investment in renewable energy, then 2019 appears to be the one for transportation—in particular, roads. In spite of the clamour around other infrastructure sectors, roads are seen as the key infrastructure sector destination—67 per cent are planning to invest in the sector.

Stable income beats risky returns

Respondents’ choices for top investment destinations cut through recent noise about the rise of some developing APAC countries. According to our survey, investors will be concentrating their activity on larger, more stable countries such as Australia, India and Singapore. APAC countries with perceived higher political/systemic risk such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Vietnam appear to have drifted down the priority list as investment destinations for many investors.

Opportunity knocks

Above all, investors see APAC as a land of opportunity. Indeed, when asked about the greatest benefits to investing in the region, opportunity crops up in a number of different guises. Over half see a ’wealth of opportunity‘; more than a third envisage ’development of knock-on/secondary opportunities’, and a third are looking forward to the ’consolidation of related opportunities‘.

The research also addresses barriers to investment such as political risk, issues with public private partnerships (PPP) and the threat of trade wars but, overall, the general feeling among respondents is that the significant benefits on offer outweigh any challenges. As the director of M&A from a sponsor in Japan says: ’There is plenty of room for growth, development and advancement. There is a complete mismatch in the current infrastructure and the actual need based on the growth these markets are having. The opportunities in these markets are significant.’


Paul Harrison
Partner, Tokyo

Matthew Osborne
Partner, Singapore

Adeline Pang
Partner, Melbourne

Josh Sgro
Partner, Melbourne

Video: Cutting through the noise: Infrastructure in Asia-Pac

Partners Adeline Pang and Josh Sgro discuss the outlook for infrastructure in Asia-Pacific based on the survey of 100 decision makers in the market.

View this video on its own page

Cutting through the noise

The overwhelming majority of respondents see a multiplicity of opportunities in a variety of sectors and regions. However, our survey reveals that the ‘noise’ around some investment locations may be just that—noise.

Sector watch

While investors are looking at a variety of sectors in the region, our survey reveals that roads are the top priority, while both conventional and renewable energy are still very much on the radar.

Risky business

The rewards for infrastructure investors in APAC can be lucrative, but the region is not without its risks—particularly political ones.

Fundraising: Public and private

There has been a growth in the number of funds targeting the APAC infrastructure market as investors seek out greater returns. Meanwhile, public-private partnerships are likely to increase if they can overcome several systemic barriers.

The outlook for Asia-Pacific infrastructure

Risks may persist around infrastructure investment in APAC, but the overall outlook is very positive.

Cutting through the noise

Cutting through the noise

The overwhelming majority of respondents see a multiplicity of opportunities in a variety of sectors and regions. However, our survey reveals that the ‘noise’ around some investment locations may be just that—noise

3 min read

Investments in infrastructure in APAC will yield stable returns and at the same time support the economic growth of the country and region significantly

Global infrastructure investment has grown considerably in the past ten years. The sector is universally recognised as an attractive one for investors due to the stable, long-term returns that are on offer. And the nature of funding is being transformed as more private backers enter the fray.


Opportunity abounds

The multiplicity of assets in the APAC region has not gone unnoticed by investors. Indeed, there are such a large number of projects currently ongoing in the region that when asked, unprompted, to name an infrastructure project in APAC likely to come to market this year, respondents replied with more than 30 different ventures, from the Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor in India to the deep tunnel sewerage system in Singapore. The breadth and diversity of assets on offer in the region has attracted a great deal of attention from global investors, and our survey shows that 88 per cent of respondents plan to increase their APAC team size. Meanwhile, on average, respondents have 50 per cent of their total infrastructure spend invested in the APAC market.

The rationales behind investment are as numerous as the countries in APAC. However, well over half of respondents (59 per cent) stated that the strength of long-term investment return was one of the top-three benefits of investing in emerging Asia-Pacific economies. ’Investments in infrastructure in APAC will yield stable returns and at the same time support the economic growth of the country and region significantly,’ says the director of investment of a pension fund in China.

Given the vast number of projects in the pipeline, it is unsurprising that the wealth of opportunity is a prominent draw for investors. It’s a big stage, with developing economies attracting less competition than more mature markets, which eases pressure on pricing, particularly where firms are helping developing countries in their efforts to forge new markets in renewable energy.

On average, have half of their total infrastructure spend invested in the APAC market

Growing size of Asia-Pacific team


Stability beats risk

While investors are eyeing up prospects across the region, our research reveals that the majority are looking at countries with healthy economies, stable political systems, reliable and trusted legal frameworks, and decent investment track records. Australia tops the ranking as the likely destination for investment from 54 per cent of survey respondents. India (48 per cent), China (39 per cent) and Malaysia (36 per cent) come next.

As if to prove the point, Australia saw last year’s largest APAC infrastructure M&A deal, according to figures from Inframation Group, when Sydney Transport Partners acquired a 51 per cent stake in the new WestConnex toll road for US$6.5 billion. Australia (41 per cent) is also the country which most investors are excited about in terms of future opportunities, followed by Singapore (32 per cent) and India (28 per cent).

These results cut through recent noise about the rise of some developing APAC countries. Most investors are steering clear of the least stable and higher-risk areas. Sri Lanka (38 per cent) and Pakistan (36 per cent), in particular, are losing their appeal, according to our respondents.

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