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Australia infrastructure fund unitholders vote to replace Hastings as manager

Gardior Pty Ltd., the Brisbane, Australia-based trustee of The Infrastructure Fund, announced that unitholders of the A$2.1 billion ($1.7 billion) fund voted at an extraordinary unitholders meeting Thursday to remove Hastings Funds Management as the fund’s manager over the coming 12 months.

Bob Lette, Gardior’s chairman, in a news release, welcomed unitholders support for “our plans to develop a new model of asset management that will give our investments more visibility of, and more influence over, the management and the future direction of TIF.”

The decision to remove Hastings, the Melbourne-based manager of A$14.3 billion in infrastructure assets, followed “an extensive review,” which concluded that redesigning and renegotiating “our asset management services ... (was) the best way to lower costs, increase returns and improve alignment between TIF management and unitholders,” said Mr. Lette.

That verdict from TIF’s unitholders is the latest unwelcome news for Hastings owner Westpac Group, which saw its second attempt to sell the money manager it acquired in 2002 — in the latest instance to Sydney-based real estate manager Charter Hall Group — fall through last month.

Hastings said in a news release Thursday it respected the decision by TIF unitholders, but quoted Andrew Day, Hastings’ CEO, noting that his team had delivered annual returns of 12.8% per year on average, after fees, over its 17-year tenure as the fund’s manager, exceeding benchmark returns.

A Hastings spokeswoman declined to comment regarding Gardior’s suggestion that a new management approach would deliver better alignment, better returns and lower costs, saying such queries should be directed to Gardior.

Jonathan van Rooyen, who joined Gardior from Hastings last year as general manager – investments, didn’t respond to calls or an email seeking comment.