II awards: Puerto Rico in the spotlight

The Caribbean island’s PR22/PR-5 toll road PPP, led by Abertis and Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners, picked up three of the 45 awards up for grabs in our 2011 reader poll. Firms collecting two awards included Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Vinci and BBVA.

Where to look for the deal which captured the imagination of our readers as they registered their votes – in impressively large quantities – in our annual awards poll? Would it be Russia, where the Pulkovo Airport public-private partnership (PPP) deal was much favoured last year? Or would it perhaps be France, where a surge of high-profile PPPs, including the Tours-Bordeaux high-speed rail line, poured through the pipeline?

In fact, it was a Caribbean island a mere 100 miles long by 35 miles wide, with a population of less than 4 million. But to those familiar with Puerto Rico – and it’s stated determination to engage the private sector as a way to counter budgetary challenges – it probably comes as no great surprise that the territory’s PR-22/PR-5 toll road concession picked up three awards.

The 40-year concession – which was voted global infrastructure deal of the year as well as PPP transaction of the year globally and in North America – was the first ever PPP procured by the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority (PPPA) and, when it reached financial close on $1.4 billion in September, became the largest US PPP of the year. It was also the first US brownfield toll road project in the US since 2006.

The deal was led by a combination of Abertis and Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners and included $825 million of debt finance from Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, Santander, Scotiabank, WestLB, La Caixa, Caja Madrid, CIB Credit Agricole, ING Capital, Intesa Sao Paulo, RBC Capital Markets, Siemens Financial Services and Societe Generale.

In mainland USA, the struggle to establish the PPP model goes on – with a step forward often followed by a step back. The states could do a lot worse than look to the template established by the Puerto Rico PPPA as a possible way ahead. The island also has a number of other pioneering projects underway, including a 50-year concession for the modernisation and redevelopment of Luiz Munoz Marin International Airport.

The 2011 awards – which, as in previous years, were voted for exclusively by our readers rather than a panel of judges – saw five firms pick up ‘doubles’. They were: Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (global infrastructure fund manager and European infrastructure deal for Grupo T-Solar); Vinci (global and European developer); BBVA (global and European bank); HSBC (Asia Pacific and Middle Eastern bank); and Allen & Overy (global and North American law firm).

HSBC (Asia Pacific bank) and Allen & Overy (global law firm) are among eight firms which have picked up the same award three years running, since we held our first poll for 2009. The others are: Meridiam Infrastructure (European fund manager); MENA Infrastructure Fund (Middle Eastern fund manager); Odebrecht (Latin American developer); African Development Bank (African bank); JPMorgan Chase & Co (global fund administrator); and Marsh (global insurance house).

In a new award category for 2011, Alain Rauscher, founder and chief executive of Paris-based fund manager Antin Infrastructure Partners, was voted global infrastructure personality of the year. The award recognises his reputation as a deep thinker and impassioned debater with respect to many of the key trends impacting the infrastructure asset class. Rauscher beat off strong competition from David Alvarez of the Puerto Rico PPPA and Philippe Maystadt of the European Investment Bank.

To browse the full list of winners, please click here. And for extensive coverage of all 45 awards, don't forget to check out the Infrastructure Investor Annual Review 2011.