Apax, OHL bid on Spain’s ENA

Apax Partners and OHL will jointly participate in the race for the privatisation of state-run highway toll company, ENA.

Private equity house Apax Partners, has teamed up with Spanish construction and services group, OHL, to make a bid in the privatisation of toll motorway operator Empresa Nacional de Autopistas (ENA), in a deal that could net between E1.2bn and E1.5bn for the government.


Employing 639 people, ENA has a toll-road system in Spain of 473 kilometres through four concession holders. For the first nine months of 2002, ENA had pre-tax profit of E60m, up 14.5 per cent from the same period in 2001, while revenue grew eight per cent to E120m.


The Apax consortium faces considerable obstacles to clinch the deal. Banking sources in Spain suggest that the Spanish government is against a private equity deal for the business, favouring a trade purchase which it believes will offer a longer term strategy for ENA.


The consortium will be competing against Acciona, Grupo Ferrovial and Abertis, formed by the merger of Acesa Infraestructuras, and Aurea Concesiones de Infraestructuras.


If successful, the transaction would be the latest in a series of Spanish deals completed by European private equity houses. To date, London-based CVC Capital Partners has invested in excess of E1.5bn in Spain, including the recent E577m purchase of power assets from Iberdrola, which is one of Spain’s largest private equity transactions.


3i recently closed a management buyout deal worth more than E230m to buy Esmalglass, a Spanish ceramic glazes company, in its biggest Spanish venture yet. The deal is 3i's fourth in Spain.


Among the private equity firm's to recently set up Spanish offices are Advent International, Duke Street Capital  and Candover.