Queensland hires $15bn asset sale advisors

The state’s government has mandated a consortium of financial institutions to act as commercial and lead advisors for the Renewing Queensland plan.

The government of Queensland has appointed a group of advisors to assist with its A$15 billion (€8.66 billion; $12.36 billion) infrastructure asset sale.

A consortium of banks comprising Rothschild, Merrill Lynch and the Royal Bank of Scotland has been selected to act as lead and commercial advisors for the project, dubbed the Renewing Queensland plan.

Port of Brisbane

State premier Anna Bligh unveiled the proposals last month, which form part of the government’s plans to meet a state budget shortfall over the next four years. The assets to be auctioned include Queensland Motorways, the Port of Brisbane’s shipping terminal, timber producer Forestry Plantations Queensland,  Queensland Rail’s coal haulage and non-passenger businesses and the Abbott Point Coal Terminal. Queensland Rail’s passenger service assets will remain under state control. The Port of Brisbane’s major land holdings, which have been earmarked for development, could also potentially be put up for sale.

A number of infrastructure investors are thought to be following the process, including Australian infrastructure investment firm CP2, whose managing director Peter Doherty last month publicly praised the initiation of the sale process, calling it a “brave action”.

The state government is hoping to raise A$15 billion from the sales, in addition to avoiding a A$12 billion capital works bill for its taxpayers.

As a result of the financial crisis, Queensland is facing an estimated A$14 billion budget shortfall over the next four years. The state’s final demand for the quarter ending March 2009 fell 1.4 percent, compared to a decline of 0.3 percent for Australia as a whole. Queensland’s economy had previously grown, albeit marginally, by 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent during the prior two quarters.