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Kvaerner ditches PFI investments

KVAERNER THIS week cashed in all of its investments in privately financed infrastructure projects for £80M.

Included in the sale is its 50% stake in the toll-funded Queen Elizabeth II bridge at Dartford, 50% of the A1-M1 DBFO link road in Yorkshire, and 50% of the £700M Birmingham Northern Relief Road, for which it has spent the best part of a decade seeking planning approval.

In a deal brokered by Australia's MacQuarie Bank, Infrastructure Trust of Australia has agreed to buy Kvaerner's stakes in these projects, plus:

Kvaerner's 24.8% stake in Lusoponte, the builder/operator of Portugal's Tagus bridge.

Its 50% stake in the £417M Ministry of Defence Main Building refurbishment project.

A 50% holding in the £108M Queen Elizabeth hospital project in Greenwich.

Kvaerner expects to make £6.4M from the sale, part of its plan to dispose of non-core and unprofitable businesses.

This includes the expected sale of steel fabricator Cleveland Bridge to a management team (NCE 8 July). 'The group does not in future intend to be a major investor in infrastructure projects, but will continue to take the role of major contractor through its engineering and construction activities,' Kvaerner said in a statement.

Under the deal, ITA has taken over Kvaerner Corporate Development and Kvaerner Investments. These divisions had spearheaded its involvement in private infrastructure. ITA has also taken on 32 Kvaerner staff.

The Australian trust turned down Kvaerner's stakes in projects in Indonesia and the Philippines because it has a policy of only investing in OECD countries.

As a result, Australian investment company Pacific Energy has bought Kvaerner's stakes in an Indonesian toll road and a nickel mine in the Philippines for £3.2M.

ITA now plans to step up its presence in the growing British private finance initiative sector. Its only other investment in European infrastructure is in the toll financed Rostock tunnel project in Germany. In Australia ITA also has a stake in the privately financed CityLink road project in Melbourne.

Kvaerner said it would still retain a contracting role on the BNRR despite the sale of its stake. This was one of the terms under which the shares in the project were sold.

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