* Brookfield PSG to buy Center Coast Capital
* Terms not disclosed, deal due to close Q1 2018
* Latest large asset manager to buy MLP-focused investment firm
By David French
NEW YORK, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Brookfield Asset Management's Public Securities Group (PSG) has agreed to buy Center Coast Capital Holdings (CCC), an energy infrastructure-focused investment firm, for an undisclosed amount, according to a statement on Tuesday.
Houston-based Center Coast Capital has over $4 billion of assets under management and will allow the Brookfield unit to bolster its product offering to include investments in energy assets such as tax-efficient master limited partnerships (MLPs).
MLPs are the structure used by most energy firms to house their midstream assets that ship and store oil and gas.
The investment comes amid renewed interest from large asset managers to buy into energy investment firms which focus on MLPs, after question marks were raised over the structure's long-term viability.
Investors lost faith in them in the wake of the 2014 crude price slump as returns struggled to match previous performance and the construction of new pipelines, which these entities relied upon to generate higher profits, slowed.
Older MLPs also suffered from entering the "high splits," where the percentage of returns going to ordinary investors was reduced over time in favor of the oil producer which originally owned the pipelines.
To help counter these issues, some MLPs restructured their payout ratios to help bolster returns to ordinary investors, while the revival in crude prices and drilling activity created the need for new pipelines which can be placed within MLPs.
"We knew it would be a good strategic fit, but it's an interesting time too in terms of where valuations are," Craig Noble, chief executive officer of Brookfield's PSG, told Reuters in an interview.
He noted it was an attractive time to make such an investment, given the rebound in oil prices and the benefits of having more infrastructure carrying natural gas, whose price is more stable than that of crude.
In August, Blackstone Group said it had agreed to acquire Harvest Fund Advisors, an MLP-focused investment firm, for an undisclosed amount.
Brookfield PSG's acquisition of CCC is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.
As part of the CCC deal, Brookfield PSG is also buying certain assets of New York-based Liberty Street Advisors and two of its affiliates. The units are third-party marketing and servicing agents of CCC products to investment firms. (Editing by James Dalgleish)