Canadian institutional investor Erik Sardain is looking for an exciting investment opportunity in Australia over the next few months, and at the moment it doesn't look like the $8 billion Telstra share offer quite fits the bill.

Mr Sardain has been keeping an eye on Australian companies in one way or another for more than 15 years, and believes that they are an attractive investment.

But in the short term, the Asia Pacific analyst and portfolio manager for Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDP) is having trouble finding new Australian investments for his fund.

I'm basically looking for new ideas and it's very difficult, he said.

Probably I see in the next few months more opportunities in Asia than in Australia in the short term.

I haven't changed my view in terms of the long-term success of the country.

... I've got no doubt that the success story is going to continue but in the short term probably I think the market is quite unexciting and I believe that there are better opportunities somewhere in Asia.

Mr Sardain's brief at CDP - one of Canada's biggest fund managers with $C125 billion in total funds under management - is to invest roughly $C200 million in the Asia Pacific.

Australia accounts for a big chunk or approximately two thirds of his investment universe.

So you'd think that the upcoming float of part of the federal government's remaining stake in Australia's largest telco in October or November - in what will be the nation's largest share offer since 1999 - might provide some excitement. Not so.

While there are analysts who believe that Telstra's current share price represents good value and there is expected to be strong interest from US institutions in the upcoming float, Mr Sardain, for one, will need a little more convincing before signing up.

It's not really my main priority, he said.

It's an issue that's been there for some time. Looking at the fundamentals of the sector I'm a little bit bearish on it.

The main attractiveness of the sector was the yield and the question is that are the future cashflows going to be sufficient to sustain that kind of yield in the future.

I'm not convinced.

So has he decided not to buy shares in T3? I would need to do some homework before buying, he said.

So the focus was elsewhere for Mr Sardain last week as he joined 100 other investors from 70 institutions at the plush New York Palace hotel for the Merrill Lynch Australia investment conference.

Telstra was not among the 23 companies at the annual event staged by Merrill Lynch, which is the telco's business adviser for the sale, but the company has done roadshows in recent months.

The Merrill Lynch event is one of a number of international roadshows held around this time of year.

St George Bank chief financial officer Steve McKerihan said there had been a consistent, healthy level of interest from North American institutions in Australian companies, particularly for those in the top 20.

From time to time US investors may be more intuned or not to investing in Australia, Mr McKerihan said.

There's certainly no lack of interest in terms of US funds.

And there was no problem about having to compete with the Telstra float for investors' attention.

That one-off gets digested reasonably quickly, Mr McKerihan said of the float.

Macquarie Infrastructure Group is another company that has attracted attention from US funds, with 25 per cent of the company's security holders now coming from the US.

The whole tollroad story makes a lot of intuitive sense to people, MIG chief executive Stephen Allen said.

... The last two years, every time we come here there's been more interest.

What Mr Sardain himself favours in Australian firms are companies that have an international exposure, a strong franchise, a niche market or that are price makers.

On a sort of global medium term basis I think Australian companies are more attractive, he said.

But he says the current times are very challenging for investors, and he has ended up favouring the same companies - with the international exposure - as he would have invested in six, 12 or 18 months ago.

It's difficult to be really excited in the short term.

(*The writer travelled to New York with assistance from Merrill Lynch)