Trump to Face Skepticism in Infrastructure Plan, McCaughan Says

  • Principal’s McCaughan says hard to get private-sector support
  • Infrastructure investing has been ‘difficult’ to get into

Private businesses might not be as eager as President-elect Donald Trump expects to invest in infrastructure projects, according to Jim McCaughan, who oversees about $400 billion at Principal Global Investors.

“When it’s big-scale macroeconomics or politics that drives the infrastructure, the private sector has to be very careful,” McCaughan, who runs Principal Financial Group Inc.’s asset manager, said Wednesday in an interview at the insurer’s investor day in New York. “Giving the private sector the confidence to do it will actually be quite a challenge.”

Donald Trump outlined plans during his campaign to encourage private investors to back infrastructure projects, and his transition website lists a priority of making U.S. roads, bridges and ports the “envy of the world.” The length of time it takes such wagers to come to fruition could discourage investment, and easing business’s concern will require more of a plan from Trump’s administration, McCaughan said.

Principal Global has sought opportunities in infrastructure, but found it a “difficult area,” according to the money manager.

“We’ve so far decided not to make the jump, simply because the projects the private sector can relate to are actually way too popular and not therefore very attractively priced,” McCaughan said, adding that his firm is still looking for the right deal. “Though there’s clearly a big need for infrastructure spend -- and the long-term trends should be quite attractive -- it’s difficult to get those in appropriate balance.”

McCaughan’s Principal Global Investors has units that bet on asset classes including real estate, equity and fixed income. PGI has expanded its boutique offerings through acquisitions and might seek more deals to add private real estate capabilities in Europe and Asia, McCaughan said.

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