AXA stake in railway operator sold

AXA Private Equity has unloaded its 21% share of Keolis to state-owned railway operator SNCF. Keolis teamed with Meridiam last year for a £517m PFI.

AXA Private Equity (AXA PE) sold its five-year-old share in Paris-based transportation concern Keolis to SNCF for an undisclosed amount, the national railway operator for France, the $28 billion private equity firm said in a press statement.

AXA PE bought 21 percent of Keolis in 2007 in a club deal with leveraged buyout specialist Pragma Capital and Canadian pension fund administrator Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (Caisse).

SNCF, the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français (National Corporation of French Railways), had owned 45 percent of Keolis prior to 2010, and had been building out its stake in the company. Its transaction with AXA will give SNCF 70 percent ownership of Keolis, while Caisse will hold 30 percent.

Hitherto privately held Keolis, familiar in its native France, was part of a consortium that closed out 2011 with an impressive private finance initiative (PFI) deal. The company teamed with a group including Meridiam and French fund manager OFI Infravia in a £517 million (€618 million; $811 million) contract to expand the Nottingham tram network.

Under AXA, Keolis doubled its business: AXA said the company topped €4.4 billion in revenue last year. 

AXA Private Equity is owned by insurance group AXA.