PFI specialist plans to raise fresh funds for investment by selling stakes to institutional investors

PFI specialist Laing is set to sell off more of its PFI portfolio to hungry investors in order to raise money for further schemes.

Laing made the announcement at its interim results last Thursday.

Chief executive Andy Friend said that the five specialist PFI pension funds and investment banks were looking to buy £2bn worth of stakes in PFI projects.

He added that more pension funds were interested in investing directly in PFI assets than ever before.

Laing, which has a portfolio of 48 PFIs stakes worth a total of £335m, has so far sold only two to investors. But the rising value of PFI stakes in the secondary market means that Laing stands to make large profits from selling more assets. Last October it sold its 50% stake in the M40 motorway for £26.3m.

Friend said further asset sales would be likely, although Laing would aim to retain some of its investments for the longer term.

He said: “It is entirely possible we will make a sale in the second half and entirely probable that disposals will be a rising trend through 2006. The secondary market funds are gathering greater liquidity and there have been many more transactions recently with the original construction groups.’’

It is entirely possible that disposals will be a rising trend through 2006

Andy Friend, chief executive

Bill Forrester, chairman of John Laing, said: “I am pleased to report on six months in which John Laing’s development has accelerated and we have extended the investment portfolio into new markets. We have the financial resources required to grow the group and optimise value from disposals during the next phase of our development.”

The results showed an underlying 38% increase in pre-tax profits to £14m, as last year’s £13m included exceptional profits from disposals.

Turnover fell from £259m to £192m as more of Laing’s PFI projects became operational.

Laing said its strong position in the UK and mainland Europe had enabled it to increase its portfolio valuation to £335m at the end of 2004, up 9% from £301m.

The group is preferred bidder on several PFI projects, including the £800m Leicester Pathways Hospitals project, the £240m South Lanarkshire Schools project and a road project in Finland worth £228m.