With the European Union calling for the transformation of economies, manufacturing tools and means of production to make them more sustainable, there’s an urgent need for long-term investment. That need’s been amplified by the COVID-19 crisis and natural disasters that recently hit areas in western Europe, including Belgium. Certain economic sectors, such as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, as well as the infrastructure sector, truly need financial assistance.
The EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) provides for 5.9 billion euros for investment in Belgium, which’ll likely be topped up through spending by federal and regional entities. Of the RRF funding, 50% is reserved for "green transition" and 27% for "digital transformation". These investments have to be structured efficiently and the Commission encourages Member States to make sure that they also generate private investments.
Belgium doesn’t currently have a regulatory framework that enables efficient and transparent investment in infrastructure projects and such investments are complicated and expensive, meaning that only sophisticated investors have access to them. The same holds true for investments in SMEs and private equity, for which the tax and regulatory regime’s very rigid.
Belgium also has a sectoral approach to investment funds, which means you may only invest in assets that are covered by an existing regulatory regime. This makes it difficult to invest in types of assets not covered by the existing regulatory framework, or that span several categories. And yet, this is exactly what would be needed for the recovery plan!
Investments in SMEs, start-ups and infrastructure projects need to become simpler. Additional flexibility would also make it easier to invest in essential 'green transition' and 'digital transformation' projects. The answer? European Long Term Investment Funds (ELTIFs).
The status of ELTIF - a type of investment fund - was introduced a few years ago by EU Regulation 2015/760 of 29 April 2015 (the “ELTIF Regulation”). It’s directly applicable in Belgian law. Any alternative investment fund may take the form of an ELTIF, provided that the fund complies with the regulatory constraints of the ELTIF Regulation and that it’s been approved by the local regulatory authority; in Belgium, that’s the Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA).
ELTIFs provide a clear standard regulatory regime, focused on being multi-investor and multi-investment. They also benefit from a European marketing passport. As such, they represent an important alternative to other types of investment funds in Belgium.
ELTIFs were designed as vehicles for long-term investments that fit into the strategy of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, such as:
Support projects for SMEs (provision of loans or subscription to equity/debt instruments),
Infrastructure projects (transport, environmental and social infrastructure, public-private partnerships)
Real estate projects (care homes, schools, hospitals, prisons, social housing),
Green transition projects
Digital transformation projects
ELTIFs are the only type of investment fund in Belgium that can invest at the same time in infrastructure, real estate and private equity, and isn’t constrained to a sole asset class. This makes ELTIFs much more flexible and adapted to the needs of fund managers.
ELTIFs can make public offerings and raise funds from professional and institutional investors, as well as from retail investors (mainly high-net-worth individuals). They may also be accessible to retail investors via a listing on a stock exchange. This large investor base means that ELTIFs are suitable as public-private partnerships that could channel private savings into green transition and digitisation projects.
If an alternative investment fund has been authorised as an ELTIF, it benefits from a retail marketing passport, which means it can be marketed throughout the EU to retail investors. This is a big difference from the marketing passport that authorised EU alternative investment fund managers can benefit from, which is limited to professional investors.
We have the expertise and experience on all relevant topics (regulatory matters, tax, due diligence, etc.) to support you throughout the lifecycle of an ELTIF, from initial structuring, drafting fund documentation, implementing the structure, day-to-day management, ongoing (tax/regulatory/legal/accounting) compliance and finally liquidation of the ELTIF. And as part of a global network, we can reach out to experts in other territories for details of local accounting norms should an ELTIF comprise non-Belgian investors or assets.
Want to find out how you could take advantage of ELTIFs? Get in touch!