Abertis-led consortium buys U.S. tunnel operator ERC for one billion euros

MILAN/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Atlantia's ATL.MI Spanish subsidiary Abertis has agreed to buy U.S. tunnel operator Elizabeth River Crossing (ERC) for 1 billion euros from Sweden's Skanska SKAB.ST and Australian infrastructure group Macquarie, the Spanish company said.

FILE PHOTO: Toll road operator Abertis´headquarters is seen in Barcelona, Spain, October 9, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

The deal marks Abertis’ first foray in the United States, the statement said, adding that the value of the acquisition was around 2 billion euros when taken with debt.

The Spanish toll road group, which teamed up with Manulife Investment Management, will hold a stake of up to 68% in ERC and will consolidate it in its balance sheet.

Earlier this year Abertis, which is controlled by Italian infrastructure group Atlantia, bought a majority stake in Mexican toll road operator Red de Carreteras de Occidente (RCO).

“The deal confirms Abertis’ ability to diversify its business abroad, also in low-risk countries like the United States,” Atlantia said.

The Spanish company will finance the deal with a combination of committed bank facilities and cash.

ERC, which manages four tunnels and an highway in Virginia, was established by Skanska and Macquarie Infrastructure Partners II, a fund managed by Macquarie Infrastructure & Real Assets, in 2012 as part of a public-private partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The project was to renovate existing tunnels, construct a new tunnel and extend a freeway in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area in Virginia and assume all tolling operations and maintenance of the facilities through 2070.

In 2019 the tunnels registered an average intensity of 102,000 vehicles per day and have shown strong resilience in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, Abertis said. The asset had a EBITDA of $60 million and a net debt of $1.127 billion in 2019.

Skanka, the Nordic region’s largest builder and one of the biggest in the United States, said it would cash in $625 million from the sale of its 50% stake and expected the deal to close in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan, Helena Soderpalm in Stockholm; Editing by Simon Johnson and David Evans