* U.S., Canada looking for 'greenfield' investors
* Generates return of 10.3 percent in 2016
* Net assets stand at C$85 billion at end 2016
(Recasts, adds comment from CFO)
By Matt Scuffham
TORONTO, Feb 24 (Reuters)S - Canadian pension fund manager
OMERS would like to invest more in building new infrastructure,
its chief financial officer said, making it a candidate to
support government programmes in Canada and the United States.
Canada has set up an 'infrastructure bank' to supplement
government investment in projects like new roads and bridges
with funding from private investors such as pension and
sovereign wealth funds. At the same time, President Donald Trump
is planning a US$1 trillion investment programme.
Canada's biggest pension funds are among the world's biggest
infrastructure investors but they have traditionally preferred
to invest in 'brownfield' assets that have already been built
rather than 'greenfield' projects yet to be constructed.
However, with competition for 'brownfield' assets inflating
prices around the world, some funds are becoming more open to
'greenfield' spending to generate the kind of returns they are
looking for and veteran pension executive Jim Leech, who is
advising Canada's government on infrastructure, has said the
greatest need is for 'greenfield' investment.
"Greenfield investments are part of our strategy," said
OMERS CFO Jonathan Simmons said on Friday after the fund
reported its 2016 results. "We've done a very small amount up
until this stage but we do have some appetite if the opportunity
is right around 'greenfield' investing."
Simmons said the fund would be willing to invest in assets
if they are of sufficient scale, if it has a say in the
management of projects and if measures are taken to limit the
risk the fund takes on.
"When those three elements align then we're able to bid
seriously on infrastructure. Without those three elements, we
have less appetite," Simmons said.
OMERS, or the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System,
said it generated a 10.3 percent return in 2016, ahead of the
6.7 percent return it achieved in 2015 and ahead of a benchmark
target of 7.9 percent.
OMERS said its net assets rose to more than C$85.2 billion,
up from C$77.1 billion in 2015.
Canada's sixth-largest public pension fund said it achieved
a 9.5 percent return from investments in publicly traded shares
and bonds. Investments in private equity, real estate and
infrastructure produced returns of 12 percent.
Canada's biggest public pension plans have grown rapidly in
recent years through a strategy of directly investing in private
equity, infrastructure and real estate assets to diversify away
from public equity and fixed income markets.
($1 = 1.3093 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)