BUSINESS

Canadian pension strikes investment deals with Formula One, Dorna sports groups

10/26/2012 12:49 EDT | Updated 12/26/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board hit the gas with a pair of investments in motor sports racing Friday, including a deal to acquire 39 per cent of motorcycle racing marketer Dorna Sports and a US$400-million financing for Formula One Group, the company behind F1 auto racing.

Andre Bourbonnais, senior vice-president of private investments at CPPIB, called the investments Tier 1 global sports franchises.

"Those sports generate a premium and command a premium and that's what really attracted us to that," Bourbonnais said of both F1 and Dorna.

"When we started looking into it, what we also saw was very predictable and stable revenues because they are long contracted revenues with the promoters of the races."

Under the F1 deal, CPPIB Credit Investments finance US$400 million of a $1-billion private high-yield loan. The loan matures in 2019 but the projected yield wasn't disclosed.

Formula One Group holds the race promotion, broadcasting, advertising and sponsorship rights for the FIA Formula One World Championship.

Bourbonnais said that F1 represented a good credit risk.

"In Formula One, your counterparty for the circuit is the Principality of Monaco, you're pretty sure that they are going to pay you and the broadcasters are all Tier 1 broadcasters," he said.

Formula One signed a four-year deal earlier this month with NBC Sports Group for the exclusive U.S. media rights.

NBC will carry four races including the Canadian Grand Prix and the final three races of the season, while the remaining 16 races will air on NBC Sports Network.

The CPP Investment Board didn't disclose financial terms of the equity agreement with Dorna, an event management, media and marketing company with global rights to the MotoGP motorcycle racing series.

The agreement is part of a plan to expand Dorna through its acquisition of another motorcycle series, the FIM World Superbikes Championship.

Dorna already has rights until 2036 to organize FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix, also known as MotoGP.

The two motorcycle series will be operated separately, with MotoGP focused on racing prototypes and World Superbike events focused on production machines.

CPP Investment Board will join Dorna's management and European private equity firm Bridgepoint as a partner in the sports group.

The two deals were a first in sports by the pension fund manager, but other pension funds have had success from investing in sports.

The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan recently sold its controlling stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the company behind the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey team and Toronto Raptors NBA basketball team, for $1.07 billion.

The CPPIB is a professional investment management organization that invests surplus contributions on behalf of 17 million Canadian contributors and beneficiaries of the Canada Pension Plan.

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