By Ben Shore
Date: Monday 28 May 2012
Mining stocks Rio Tinto, Antofagasta, Vedanta Resources and Xstrata were amongst the biggest risers of the day on Monday as copper prices rose and reports suggested Chinese stocks of the metal were low.
Given that Britain is mired in debt and has a potential financial armageddon on its doorstep in the shape of a euro collapse, just how are we going to afford the roads, rail tracks and power stations the government says we so badly need?
The Confederation of British Industry thinks it knows how: credit subsidies for big projects that will make them safe enough and cheap enough to unlock pension fund money.
Currently the UK pension industry has around £1.5tn in assets, the trouble is the funds are wary of putting money into so called “greenfield” projects because of the risks inherent in building something from scratch.
The proposal is to use so called “contingent liabilities” to boost the credit rating of multiple projects.
Contingent liabilities are agreements by which the government would agree to meet some of the borrowing costs of a project if it went bust. This would have the effect of reducing the debt charges for the projects and increasing their attractiveness to pension funds and other institutional investors, while the banks (the more traditional form of capital) battle for their lives in the Eurozone crisis.
John Cridland, the Director-General of the CBI said: “If we can capture just a fraction of the £1.5tn of capital held in UK pension funds, and invest a further 2% of their total assets in infrastructure, this would make a huge contribution to renewing our energy, transport and other infrastructure.”
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