Unlocking the benefits of PF2
About Balfour Beatty
Balfour Beatty is a leading international infrastructure group. With 15,000 employees in the UK, Balfour Beatty finances, develops, delivers and maintains the increasingly complex infrastructure that underpins our daily life. We invest, create and care for the vital assets in sectors such as transportation, energy, water, social accommodation, residential development and commercial buildings. Our long list of projects includes Crossrail, the Channel Tunnel Rail link, Heathrow T2B, M25, M60, M3, M4/M5, Sellafield and soon Hinkley C nuclear facilities as well as the Olympic Aquatics Centre and transformation of the Olympic Stadium.
A leader in the delivery of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), Balfour Beatty has also been successfully tendering and operating privately financed public infrastructure projects since they were first used in the UK over 20 years ago. Our experience has seen us develop a range of innovative ways to finance, deliver and maintain roads, hospitals, schools, student accommodation, street lighting, waste management facilities and offshore electricity transmission projects.
Balfour Beatty has a strong track-record of financing public infrastructure in the UK and abroad, having closed projects with over £10bn of private capital including our own investments. We have extensive experience of structuring transactions from a variety of sources including banks, mono-line insurance companies and institutional investors. Our projects provide competitive financing terms that deliver value for money to our clients. We work hard to ensure that our proposed solutions continue to be deliverable and remain competitive throughout all stages of the project life cycle.
Balfour Beatty is also at the forefront of developing novel financing solutions as new providers of finance enter the infrastructure market. For example, Balfour Beatty and its partners successfully raised £351 million of financing for the acquisition of the Greater Gabbard Offshore Transmission Owner (OFTO). This was the first OFTO to access financing via the public bond market and the first UK bond issuance to utilise the European Investment Bank’s project bond credit enhancement scheme. Previously, Balfour Beatty has worked with a multinational financial services company to deliver an innovative pension fund solution to finance a £45m student accommodation project for Aberystwyth University. We also closed a £78m student accommodation project for the University of Edinburgh
which was financed through bond issuance, one of the first UK greenfield transactions to be supported by a mono-line insurer after the global financial crisis.
High quality infrastructure is not only essential to everyday life, it is also vital to sustainable economic growth1. Balfour Beatty therefore welcomes the Prime Minister’s proposal to put infrastructure investment at the heart of the UK’s economy. We also welcome the fresh injection of public money for infrastructure outlined in the 2016 Autumn Statement, including the establishment of the National Productivity Investment Fund’s budget of £11bn2 for housing and economic infrastructure and the Government’s objective to increase investment in economic infrastructure to over 1%3 of GDP from 2020.
Balfour Beatty fully supported the establishment of the National Infrastructure Commission last year. We believe that the creation of such an important body demonstrates the seriousness with which the UK Government is approaching the infrastructure agenda. It is right that decisions on infrastructure should be based on expert analysis and the long-term strategic interests of the UK as a whole. Balfour Beatty also welcomes the National
Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline (NICP) recently published by the Infrastructure Projects Authority (IPA) as well as the extension of the UK Guarantee Scheme (UKGS) until 2026.
Private sector finance, expertise and skills have played a significant role in delivering existing public infrastructure services in the UK. This trend is only likely to accelerate with time given the imperative to control the level of national borrowing, the significant amount of investment required in infrastructure4, and the need for specialist expertise, knowledge and skills that the public sector cannot provide alone. The private sector also contributes much needed capital: more than half of the pipeline included in the NICP to 2020/21 is currently financed or planned to be financed by the private sector5.
The use of PPPs is now globally established as a successful model for channelling private sector skills, knowledge and financing into public infrastructure. It is therefore timely that the Government has decided to put forward a new pipeline of PPPs using the Private Finance 2 (PF2) model. PF2 represents a revised and more efficient approach to PPP that seeks to learn from and improve on previous procurement experience. Balfour Beatty welcomes the 2016 Autumn Statement briefing paper and expects that publication in early 2017 of a list of new projects suitable for delivery through PF2 will stimulate market engagement and allow potential participants to start to plan their involvement and to allocate resources.
A close engagement and continuous dialogue between the public and private sectors will be of key importance to successful delivery of the UK Government’s plans for infrastructure development, including through the PF2 model. This paper discusses the benefits of using PF2 and how PF2 can assist the UK Government in achieving its strategic infrastructure development plans. It also highlights a number of key factors that, in our opinion, should be kept in mind if the future value of PF2 model is to be fully realised.
1. A clear and sizeable pipeline of projects is essential in order to attract the scale and variety of market interest needed to create a competitive environment and to achieve value for money for the taxpayer.
2. The pipeline should incorporate a critical mass of projects within each proposed infrastructure sector in order to enhance market engagement and procurement efficiency.
3. The PF2 market will flourish in an environment where the Government’s policies and contractual risk allocation remain consistent across political cycles.
4. The PF2 procurement process must be efficient and streamlined in order to be cost effective. Other well-functioning PPP markets (e.g. Canada) have achieved this.
5. The maximum 18-month procurement period introduced under PF2 will instil discipline and focus. However, to ensure that this timeframe is realistic for both private and public sectors, projects should be fully developed (e.g. in terms of output specification, planning, licences, etc.) prior to being tendered.
6. Under a new PF2 programme it will be important that public sector procuring authorities have access to the corresponding skills and resources. It is therefore important that IPA and other government bodies promote and support the development of these skills.
7. We recommend that the gearing level on PF2 projects should be determined by the market as part of the competitive procurement process and not be set in advance by procuring authorities.
8. Procuring authorities should focus on specifying the outputs they seek and leave sufficient flexibility e.g. in terms of design and service delivery in order to create an environment where the private sector is incentivised and has the freedom to provide innovative solutions. In this way PF2 can be used as a tool for generating new ways of delivering public services.
9. The introduction, with PF2, of greater transparency and new provisions for the disclosure of more information, represents a valuable opportunity for government to compare how PF2 projects perform (both operationally and financially) relative to those that are operated and maintained exclusively by the public sector, so as to assess value for money to the tax payer. In order to achieve this it will be important that similar information from conventionally procured projects is collected by the Government.
UK PPP model
The UK’s PPP procurement model has allowed a substantial amount of private capital to be deployed for the benefit of infrastructure development and made a significant contribution towards improving the quality of public services by harnessing the efficiency, management and commercial expertise of the private sector. Since its inception over 20 years ago more than 700 projects have reached financial close, securing private sector investment of around £55 billion6. Many countries have been using the UK’s PPP framework and its features as a template for developing their own infrastructure and enhancing the quality of their public services.
PPPs are a tool for supporting strategic long-term investment in social and economic infrastructure and promoting economic growth. One of the main benefits of PPPs is the transfer of risks to the private sector incentivising timely construction delivery, full asset availability and a high standard of service performance, with these being delivered on the basis of pre-agreed, long-term, fixed price contracts (25 years or more in many cases).
Through the PPP model the public sector can also access the private sector’s financial and human resources, knowledge, expertise and innovation. For example, Balfour Beatty has recently implemented the use of innovative ground penetrating radar on sections of its A50 road. This has helped to prevent the deterioration of safety-critical drainage systems. On our street lighting projects we have used new technologies to deliver significant utility cost savings and assisted the public sector in moving towards its carbon reduction targets.
Separately, the holistic approach encouraged by the PPPs allows the public sector to extract value for money through appropriate risk transfer to the private sector over the life of the project (i.e. all the way from design/construction/finance to operations and maintenance). Whilst a conventionally procured construction contract may be more affordable in the short term, the absence of risk transfer over the whole life cycle of the project can lead to a poorer value for money outcome in the long-term. PPPs also provide budgetary certainty for procuring authorities by fixing their costs over the term of the contract.
Linking the private sector’s return to the long-term performance and availability of infrastructure provides greater certainty that assets will be properly maintained. On conventionally procured projects maintenance may not be undertaken due to budgetary constraints. Over the long-term this can lead to deterioration in asset condition and performance.
PPPs have been a potent instrument for injecting private capital into public infrastructure provided certain conditions are met. One of these conditions is the availability of a pipeline of attractive investment opportunities with a balanced approach to risk transfer and returns. Recent investment in UK infrastructure has been dominated by a small number of very large, bespoke projects, such as Crossrail, Hinckley C and HS2. Investment in large/medium sized projects has been substantially constrained by a shortage of projects. A steady pipeline of such projects is a key factor in stimulating and preserving core infrastructure market activity.
Infrastructure is now a recognised asset class in its own right and as a result the level of interest in, and demand for, investment opportunities (including PF2) has never been higher. This position has been amplified by the recent fall in the value of sterling which has led to even greater interest from international investors.
Value for money
Whilst the PPP approach represents a valuable and useful route for developing critical public infrastructure it is only one of the procurement options available to the public sector. PPPs should only be used where they offer better value for money to the taxpayer. In some instances the use of PPP will be less appropriate. For example:
■■ On projects with smaller capital values (below c. £50m).
Procuring these projects though PPPs is unlikely to be cost efficient given the level of fixed transaction costs involved for both public and private sector parties. As a consequence such projects are less likely to be of interest to most market participants leading to weaker competition and increased project costs.
■■ Projects that rely on untested technologies or that have very complex operational requirements or which may require substantial changes in scope during the life of the project.
The higher levels of risk involved in such projects makes them less suited to the highly geared financing structures typically used in PPPs. PF2 introduced a number of improvements including greater flexibility to make some changes to services during the life of a contract. Balfour Beatty supports and understands the need for this approach in an environment of budgetary constraints. We have worked with public sector clients to deliver optimised cost savings and affordable service improvements on our existing projects. For example, the Routine Winter Service Code and the Network Management Manual (enhanced standards sought by Highways England) were successfully adopted on a number of our UK roads long after the PPP contracts were signed.
■■ One-off projects.
These can take a long time and be expensive to procure due to their bespoke nature. Without a sizeable, homogeneous pipeline with an established risk allocation it will be more challenging to deliver value for money.
The future of PF2
Balfour Beatty believes it is to the UK’s advantage to re-establish a long-term PPP market through the PF2 model. In doing so, there are a number of factors which need to be kept in mind if the benefits mentioned in this paper are to be fully realised.
Sizeable pipeline of projects
Since PF2 was introduced in December 2012, only a small number of projects have been delivered and, at this time, there are very few PF2 projects under development or in procurement. A clear and sizeable pipeline of projects is essential in order to attract the scale and variety of market interest needed to create a competitive environment and to achieve value for money for the taxpayer. Market engagement and procurement efficiency will be enhanced if the pipeline incorporates a critical mass of projects within each proposed infrastructure sector.
Consistency in policy and risk allocation
The PF2 market will flourish in an environment where the Government’s policies and contractual risk allocation remain consistent across political cycles. This consistency will help to provide certainty and stability so that participants can plan over the longer term and make corresponding investment decisions.
The PF2 procurement process must be efficient and streamlined in order to be cost effective. Other well-functioning PPP markets (e.g. Canada) have achieved this. The maximum 18-month procurement period introduced under PF2 will instil discipline and focus. However, to ensure that this timeframe is realistic for both private and public sectors, projects should be fully developed (e.g. in terms of output specification, planning, licences, etc.) prior to being tendered.
In the absence of an active PPP market, many companies in the UK have applied and developed their PPP skills in other sectors where procurement has continued, for example in student accommodation, renewable power and offshore electricity transmission. Under a new PF2 programme it will be important that public sector procuring authorities have access to the corresponding skills and resources. It is therefore important that IPA and other government bodies promote and support the development of these skills.
The PF2 model incorporates flexibility for the procuring authorities to remove soft facilities management services from contracts and to accelerate/defer life cycle maintenance activities. Balfour Beatty supports and understands the need for a flexible approach in the context of the present budgetary constraints faced by many local Authorities. However, it is important that such arrangements are used in a sensible and proportionate manner if the whole life cost benefits of PF2 are to be realised and future generations are not to be burdened with poorly performing assets as well as a substantial backlog of maintenance works.
Under PF2 it is proposed that financing structures are de-risked (either through credit enhancement and/or a higher proportion of equity) in order to attract a wider pool of long-term, institutional debt investors. Whilst such measures will improve the creditworthiness of projects for debt investors and will positively impact credit ratings, this may not deliver the best value for money outcome. We recommend that the gearing level on PF2 projects should be determined by the market as part of the competitive procurement process and not be set in advance by procuring authorities. This approach will give the private sector the freedom to structure projects from a broad range of options, including mono-line insurance, mezzanine finance, commercial bank guarantees and the UK Guarantee Scheme, so as to achieve the most competitive and deliverable financing.
Procuring authorities should focus on specifying the outputs they seek and leave sufficient flexibility e.g. in terms of design and service delivery in order to create an environment where the private sector is incentivised and has the freedom to provide innovative solutions. In this way PF2 can be used as a tool for generating new ways of delivering public services.
Transparency and information
PF2 introduced greater transparency and new provisions for the disclosure of more information. This represents a valuable opportunity for government to compare how PF2 projects perform (both operationally and financially) relative to those that are operated and maintained exclusively by the public sector, so as to assess value for money to the tax payer. In order to achieve this it will be important that similar information from conventionally procured projects is collected by the Government.
Balfour Beatty welcomes the renewed focus on PF2 with the forthcoming announcement of a new pipeline. The market has learnt from the past and is eager to engage in partnership with the public sector to deliver the infrastructure that the country needs now and for future generations to come. Balfour Beatty recognises and embraces the challenge of improving efficiency and maximising value for money to the taxpayer under PF2.
However, in our view, the success of any new approach depends on a number of factors including: bringing forward a clear and sizeable pipeline of projects; policy consistency across political cycles; ensuring that the private sector is incentivised and has the freedom to provide innovative solutions. In this way PF2 can be used as a tool for generating new and more efficient ways of delivering public services.
1 Eddington, 2006
2 Infrastructure and Projects Authority, “National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline Analysis”, December 2016
3 The Government’s investment level in the areas covered by the NIC. HM Treasury, “Autumn Statement 2016”, November 2016
4 For example, McKinsey Global Institute’s analysis concludes that the UK has a 0.4% of GDP gap between its estimated requirements for infrastructure needs before 2030 and its present spending, McKinsey Global Institute, June 2016.
5 Of which 60% is in the regulated sectors, Infrastructure and Projects Authority, “National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline Analysis”, December 2016
6 HM Treasury, “A new approach to public private partnerships”, December 2012