Exclusive: Whitehelm leads investment in Spanish bond deal

The Australian asset manager has invested €33m on behalf of Prime Super in a senior secured bond issued by shadow toll road Autovía del Noroeste.

Whitehelm Capital has led a cornerstone investment by Australian superannuation fund Prime Super in a senior secured bond issued by Autovía del Noroeste (Aunor), a mature shadow toll road in Spain owned by Sacyr and Eiser Infrastructure.

The independent Australian asset manager is investing €33 million priced at 4.75 percent (Euribor plus 450 basis points) in the €54 million bond. The latter will mature in June 2025 and has a 5.5-year weighted average life.  

Aunor operates a 62.4km road under a 27-year concession awarded in 1999. It is rated BB+ (stable) by Standard & Poor’s and, according to Whitehelm, has been recording traffic 158 percent above the concession’s maximum guaranteed average daily traffic.

Following the deal, Whitehelm will have invested A$1.3 billion ($991 million; €873 million) in infrastructure debt, with its portfolio returning north of 10 percent. Whitehelm head of infrastructure debt Alexander Waller called the deal a “prudently structured, senior-ranking transaction for a mature asset with no refinancing risk”. 

Looking ahead, he said Whitehelm “continued to observe better relative value for infrastructure debt relative to equity in large, competitively bid assets and the pipeline looks excellent for the rest of the year”.

As exclusively revealed by Infrastructure Investor, the Australian asset manager is looking to grow its 10-strong separate accounts business to 15 after relocating chief investment officer Graham Matthews to London. Most of that growth is expected to come from European LPs. 

About two-thirds of Whitehelm’s assets are currently located outside Australia – mostly in the UK and Europe – where Whitehelm started managing money on behalf of local pension funds 18 years ago.

Whitehelm’s business spans unlisted and listed equity as well as infrastructure debt, which makes up about 20 percent of its A$4.5 billion of assets under management. Its unlisted equity strategy has returned an average of 12.7 percent since inception.

The firm has made 86 investments to date spanning Australia and New Zealand, Asia, Europe and North America. It currently managers 37 of those investments, having exited the remaining 49, returning A$6.5 billion to investors over the last 18 years.