Ardian snaps up 44% stake in French pipeline

The deal comes just days after the manager acquired a set of wind farms and builds on its holdings in two sizeable oil storage and pipeline assets.

Ardian has bought a 44 percent stake in Société du Pipeline Méditerranée Rhône, a French operator of refined pipeline networks, from oil majors Total and BP.

The fund manager stands to become the largest shareholder in the company once the transaction completes, with Trapil, Esso, Eni, PetroFrance and Thevenin & Ducrot all retaining an interest in SPMR.

The amount of the transaction was not disclosed. Ardian declined to comment.

SPMR owns and operates a 760km-long pipeline network of “strategic interest”, Ardian said, connecting the Fos-Lavera oil facilities in south-eastern France with the Lyon area, Northern French Alps, Switzerland and the main French Riviera oil depots.

“This new investment in a strategic asset in France reinforces Ardian’s foothold in the European energy logistic sector and strengthens our relationships with major oil companies,” said Mathias Burghardt, head of infrastructure at Ardian.

The acquisitions build on the firm’s existing assets in the sector. Ardian is a 15 percent shareholder in CLH, a Spanish oil storage and pipeline operator whose largest owners are CVC Capital Partners (25 percent), Borealis (24.77 percent) and Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (20 percent). Ardian was the company’s largest shareholder until April, when it sold a 10 percent stake to CVC.

The firm also owns a majority interest in Geosel alongside EDF Invest, with which it acquired 50 percent plus one share in the French storage and pipeline business. Representing about 20 percent of France’s total hydrocarbon storage capacity, the company oversees around 40 percent of the country’s strategic oil reserves.

Ardian bought its stake in SPMR using its €2.65 billion Infrastructure Fund IV, which Infrastructure Investor understands is now 60 percent deployed. Last week, the firm used the same vehicle to fund its acquisition of a holding company controlling three wind farms in Italy.