Regulator scopes Transurban bid for Queensland Motorways

Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:27am EST

* Watchdog seeks comments on Transurban's $5 bln state motorways bid

* Three global investment consortia plan to submit bids

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Australia's competition regulator said on Wednesday it was inviting feedback on whether Transurban Group, the country's biggest toll road operator, should be allowed to buy about A$5 billion of roads from the Queensland state government.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's statement was the first indication that Transurban, which already operates toll roads in New South Wales and Victoria states, may face regulatory hurdles with a move into Queensland.

Australian state governments are anxious to sell large infrastructure assets to pay for capital works programmes. However on Feb. 6, the ACCC said it was concerned about another such sale, AGL Energy Ltd's proposed A$1.5 billion purchase of energy company Macquarie Generation.

The ACCC did not give a view on Transurban's offer for Queensland Motorways, except to confirm Transurban was bidding in a consortium with superannuation fund AustralianSuper and state-run Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

The regulator said it would invite comments about the proposed sale from interested parties until Feb. 28 and issue a decision or raise its concerns by April 3.

The state government's Queensland Investment Corp Ltd has also received an indicative bid from a group including Australia's Hastings Funds Management, sovereign wealth fund the Kuwait Investment Authority, Spanish toll road operator Abertis Infraestructuras and Dutch pension fund APG Algemene Pensioen Groep, two sources told Reuters last week.

A third bid was made by a group including IFM Investors, which is owned by 30 Australian superannuation funds, with Canada's Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Borealis Infrastructure, the sources said.

Transurban reports half-yearly earnings on Thursday and analysts expect it to show a rise in profit for the six-month period due to stronger traffic volume following completion of its Hills M2 toll road upgrade in Sydney.

Transurban shares rose 1 percent in line with the overall market on Wednesday. (Editing by Stephen Coates)