AXA PE agrees French renewables deal

AXA Private Equity has teamed up with French renewables producer Neoen to acquire a portfolio of renewable energy assets, making the buyout firm France’s fourth-largest wind farm operator.

Paris-based private equity and infrastructure investor AXA Private Equity has teamed up with French renewable energy producer Neoen to acquire the renewable energy activities of Poweo ENR from Verbund, an Austrian electricity firm.

No financial details of the transaction have been disclosed, although a source close to the deal said the purchase price was below book value and would consequently result in a non-cash book loss. The same source said the sale would not have an impact on Verbund’s profit and loss forecast for 2011.

Poweo ENR is an independent renewable power firm with more than 120 megawatts (MW) of projects in operation, as well as a large portfolio of projects in development in wind, solar and biomass.

While AXA Private Equity and Neoen are together acquiring all of Poweo ENR, a statement said that, in a second phase, it is anticipated that AXA Private Equity will retain the operational French wind assets while Neoen will retain the operational French solar photovoltaic farms; the solar, wind and biomass projects under development in France, Italy and Poland; and Poweo ENR’s position within a consortium competing for a large French offshore wind tender.

The statement said that, as a result of the transaction – which is expected to complete “as soon as possible” – AXA Private Equity will acquire 10 operating wind farms in Lorraine, Champagne, Burgundy and Languedoc, totalling more than 100 MW. This would make AXA Private Equity the fourth-largest wind farm operator in France with more than 300 MW in wind capacity under operation and construction.

The deal will also take AXA Private Equity’s total European renewable capacity to 600 MW. The firm developed a renewable energy platform with Tozzi Group in Italy in 2007 and acquired Babcock & Brown’s French wind farm portfolio, renamed Kallista, in 2009.

The Poweo ENR deal is the first renewables transaction to come from AXA Private Equity’s latest infrastructure fund, which by last month had raised around €650 million on its way to an intended final close of between €1 billion and €1.5 billion later this year.