The financialisation of urban infrastructure: A framework of analysis

28th Feb 2018

The financialisation of urban infrastructure: A framework of analysis

A new paper by Phillip O’Neill is now available online.

This paper is part of a forthcoming Special Issue entitled Funding, financing and governing urban infrastructures​.



The literature on the financialisation of urban infrastructure typically traces how an infrastructure asset’s balance sheet is (re)engineered to create a financial asset. What the literature neglects are the processes by which an asset generates urban flows. Attention to these processes, we argue, not only gives better insight into the processes of financialisation of infrastructure but also exposes how the act of financing affects the operations of cities through its influence on the performance of infrastructure assets. The argument presented in the article is informed by case studies of infrastructure investments revealed in interviews conducted in New York, London and Sydney. This material is drawn on to generate a framework for understanding the relationships between infrastructure investing and the infrastructure-enabled flows of a city. This framework has three dimensions through which the financialisation process is seen to be mediated. These are capital structure, organisational structure and regulatory structure. The article argues that these mezzanine-level conceptualisations enable us to explore the to-and-fro between financing and operating cities. A key proposition is that the physical flows of a city are basic not only to the design and enactment of an investment instrument but also to its financial viability. The realisation of this relationship has changed the way investors approach infrastructure assets as investment products. Implications for urban management are drawn.


Read the full paper here


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