Exclusive: Three groups eye UK’s only pay-to-use road

The likes of Abertis, DIF, Globalvia, Hermes and Vinci are said to be considering a bid for the M6 Toll road, as the project's creditors attempt to recoup £1.9bn of debt.

There are at least three investor groups currently considering a bid for the UK’s M6 Toll road, as a sales process for the road is due to kick-off imminently, people close to the matter told Infrastructure Investor.

A group of lenders including Crédit Agricole, Commerzbank and Banco Espirito Santo took control of the asset in December 2013, following a restructuring that involved £1.9 billion ($2.8 billion; €2.4 billion) of debt. It is understood the sale could be worth between £1.4 billion and £1.6 billion, with lenders hoping to restructure £800 million of senior debt and £1.1 billion of junior debt.

Sources told Infrastructure Investor that a team led by Spanish developer Abertis, as well as a consortium of Globalvia and DIF were looking to take part in the auction. The latter could also include InfraRed Capital Partners, which is understood to be considering a bid. A third group pairing London-based Hermes Infrastructure and France’s Vinci could also be in the running, sources said. 

The UK’s Universities Superannuation Scheme and Infracapital were also described as potential bidders, although their decision-making was said to be at a more tentative stage.

The new shareholders of the US’ Chicago Skyway – the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which bought the $2.8 billion road in November 2015 – have not shown interest, the people said. IFM Investors, which paid $5.7 billion for the Indiana Toll Road last year, is not looking to bid either, they added.

All of the firms cited above either declined to comment, did not respond to requests for comment or could not be reached before press time.

The 27-mile-long M6 Toll, the UK’s only pay-to-use motorway, opened in 2003. Daily traffic was originally forecast at 72,000, but only averaged 47,000 in the last quarter of 2015.

The asset’s operating company posted a loss of £28.6 million in 2014, an improvement on the previous year, when it was £32.5 million in the red. Income from tolls also increased 5.5 percent to £69.54 million, from £65.9 million in 2013.