UK: A consortium including South Korea’s National Pension Service has agreed a £3bn deal to purchase the 30-year concession to manage High Speed 1 from the two Canadian pension funds which have managed the line since November 2010.
The concession covers the operation and maintenance of the 109 km rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel plus the four stations at London St Pancras, Stratford, Ebbsfleet and Ashford International. It was awarded by the UK government to Borealis Infrastructure, the investment arm of Ontario’s municipal pension fund OMERS, and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan under a deal valued at £2·1bn. The two funds revealed earlier this year that they had launched a ‘strategic review’ of the business after being approached by potential buyers.
Borealis and OTPP confirmed on July 14 that they had ‘entered into a definitive agreement’ to sell HS1 to a consortium comprising funds advised and managed by InfraRed Capital Partners Ltd and Equitix Investment Management Ltd. InfraRed is advising third party funds including HICL Infrastructure and NPS. The members of the consortium will acquire interests in HS1 pro rata to their respective shareholdings, with HICL and the Equitix funds acquiring 35% each, and NPS the remaining 30%. They noted that ‘each of the consortium members has a proven track record of owning and managing UK infrastructure businesses’.
Equitix Chief Investment Officer Hugh Crossley said the ‘high quality UK PPP asset’ was ‘attractive to our underlying Limited Partners and we expect to remain invested in it for the full duration of the concession.’
According to OTPP, HS1 handled more than 75 000 trains during 2016, with its principal customers, Southeastern and Eurostar, carrying more than 20 million passengers. HS1 Ltd is reported to have made an operating loss of £94m for the year to March 2017.
‘HS1 has delivered significant economic benefits to the UK and has enabled the regeneration of a number of areas along the route’, said OTPP Senior Managing Director Jo Taylor. ‘We are confident that HS1 will continue to prosper under its new ownership.’ OMERS Executive Vice President & Global Head of Infrastructure Ralph Berg added that ‘the business has become a reference point for the quality and reliability of its service’.