Ardian to invest €300m in Portuguese toll roads

The French firm, currently on the trail to raise its fourth infrastructure fund, will own 50% of Ascendi’s domestic network.

Paris-headquartered Ardian has signed an agreement with Portuguese developer Ascendi Group (Ascendi) to own and operate five motorways in the Iberian country.

The transaction will see the fund manager acquire 50 percent of Ascendi PT II, a new entity that will inherit Ascendi’s existing 500-kilometre domestic toll road network. Ardian is set to invest €300 million in the partnership, with the developer owning the balance.

“This joint deal is a great example of our strategy to partner with a range of specialist infrastructure operators throughout Europe over the long-term, strengthening our network in the process. This transaction will pave the way for Ardian to explore further the Portuguese infrastructure landscape,” said Mathias Burghardt, head of infrastructure at the firm.

Primarily located in the north of Portugal – where most motorway concessions are concentrated – the roads due to transfer to the joint venture comprise Auto-Estradas da Grande Lisboa, Auto-Estradas do Grande Porto, Auto-Estradas do Norte, Auto-Estradas da Costa de Prata and Auto-Estradas das Beiras Litoral e Alta. Ascendi currently holds stakes of between 66 percent and 80 percent in each of these assets.

Ardian is currently raising its fourth infrastructure fund with a target of €2 billion. Infrastructure Investor last March reported that the firm was looking to hold a final close on the vehicle, the first to be entirely raised by Ardian since its 2013 spin-out from French insurer AXA, by the end of June.

It is unclear whether the investment announced today will be made via this latest fund or if any debt was used to finance the deal, which remains subject to regulatory and contractual approval. Ardian did not respond to a request before press time.

Portugal’s 2,800-kilometre toll road network is entirely operated under concession or public-private partnership schemes. The market is dominated by domestic concessionaires Brisa and Ascendi, which account for 51 percent and 22 percent of it respectively.

Brisa, which was delisted from the Lisbon Stock Exchange in April 2013, is jointly owned by Portugal’s Mello family and London-based fund manager Arcus Infrastructure Partners. Ascendi belongs to listed developer Mota-Engil alongside domestic lender Novo Banco, the name taken by the healthy operations of Banco Espirito Santo after the country’s former second-largest bank was bailed out in August 2014.