In a move that could shape its future, BlackRock is making a huge bet on infrastructure investing with its $12.5 billion acquisition of specialist firm Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP).
The deal, announced Friday, includes $3 billion in cash and 12 million BlackRock shares to bring GIP’s $100+ billion infrastructure portfolio under its umbrella. With infrastructure booming globally, it plants BlackRock’s flag in an alternative asset class that offers stability and strong cash flows.
For Larry Fink, BlackRock’s founder and CEO, the deal provides a growth engine and caps a storied career. At 71 years old, Fink has not yet named his successor. This acquisition generates buzz around President Rob Kapito and COO Rob Goldstein as potential heirs apparent.
It also brings infrastructure investing veterans from GIP into BlackRock’s senior ranks. GIP Chairman Bayo Ogunlesi will join BlackRock’s board, while co-founders like ex-World Bank President Jim Yong Kim provide invaluable experience.
Why Infrastructure, Why Now?
Infrastructure has become increasingly attractive to institutional investors, particularly those with long-term liabilities to fund. The assets provide inflation protection, and the regulated nature of many infrastructure projects leads to predictable cash flows even during economic downturns.
Swelling demand for infrastructure also powers opportunity and growth. E-commerce and supply chain modernization require massive investment in logistics and transportation assets like airports, seaports, rail, and warehouses. The global energy transition is expected to necessitate trillions in spending on renewable power, battery storage, transmission lines, and more. And booming data usage makes digital infrastructure such as cell towers and data centers a near-certainty for major funding.
BlackRock saw the writing on the wall. With interest rates still relatively low by historical standards, it pulled the trigger on a transformative infrastructure deal rather than waiting for valuations to potentially rise further. GIP’s assets also provide diversification and inflation mitigation to complement BlackRock’s vast holdings of stocks and bonds.
For forward-thinking infrastructure investors, BlackRock’s whopper of a deal validates the long-term potential of the sector. And it positions the asset management titan to capitalize on infrastructure demand in both developed and emerging markets for decades to come.
The move into infrastructure also helps reinvigorate BlackRock’s revenues. With rock-bottom interest rates in recent years limiting fee income, BlackRock has searched for ways to accelerate growth. The company manages over $10 trillion in assets but has seen minimal increase in revenue since 2018.
Alternative investments like infrastructure represent a potential answer. They generally command higher management fees while also offering incentive fees based on investment performance. That combination bodes well for BlackRock’s results.
BlackRock has dipped its toe into alternatives over the past decade via real estate, hedge funds, private equity, and other strategies. But the GIP deal vaults infrastructure to the forefront of BlackRock’s alternatives platform. Expect heightened focus and more resources dedicated to infrastructure deals in the future.
With the Fed lifting rates this year, BlackRock also has a short-term revenue boost at its back. Higher interest rates allow BlackRock to charge more for managing cash and fixed income, its largest assets. BlackRock’s 8% increase in fourth quarter earnings served as an appetizer. The GIP acquisition is the main course in its long-term growth agenda.
Fink Caps Career with Legacy Deal
Larry Fink has run BlackRock since its inception in 1988, guiding it to become the world’s preeminent money manager. But the end of his tenure looms. While no retirement plans have been announced, Fink is 71 years old.
The GIP deal thus shapes up as a culminating move to put his stamp on BlackRock’s future. Shortly after the acquisition was announced, Fink said, “This is one of the most exciting transactions we’ve ever completed.”
What excites Fink and BlackRock is GIP’s expertise, global reach, and the long runway for infrastructure investing. Fink pulled the trigger on a legacy deal that can steer BlackRock’s course beyond when he ultimately steps down.
The acquisition also stirs up increased speculation on who could succeed the respected CEO. As BlackRock makes infrastructure integral to its future, the deal elevates infrastructure veterans like GIP Chairman Bayo Ogunlesi. COO Rob Kapito and President Rob Goldstein also see their standing boosted.
While the stock dipped slightly on Friday’s news, the deal primes BlackRock for sustainable growth. Shareholders will be monitoring the integration, but early reviews applaud Fink and BlackRock for their foresight and ability to execute.