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Infrastructure Investor Awards 2023: Europe

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Fund Manager of the Year

Winner: iCON

Second place: KKR
Third place: Infracapital

iCON committed over $2.2 billion into 12 infrastructure deals last year, half of which were sourced and executed bilaterally, while five followed a limited sales process. Those transactions included the acquisition of Portuguese regulated gas distribution network Sonorgás and radiotherapy business Mercurius Health, which went on to make subsequent acquisitions in Germany and Spain.

In addition, iCON established a UK waste platform and acquired majority stakes in Enoé Energie, a developer and operator of solar projects in France; and NVA, a renewable energy development business in Italy.

The firm, which grew its European investment team with eight new hires, has an additional four transactions which it expects to close in the first half of 2024.

Equity Fundraising of the Year

Winner: Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners

Second place: Cube Investment Managers
Third place: Qualitas Energy

In October 2023, Quinbrook held a final close on its UK-focused Quinbrook Renewables Impact Fund, with £620 million ($778 million; €725 million) of commitments. The capital was raised exclusively from UK investors and saw the fund significantly exceed its £500 million target. The fund is aligned with the UK government’s goal of decarbonising the UK power system by 2035, as well as its improved energy security and levelling up agendas.

The portfolio includes long-term inflation-linked contracts with counterparties such as National Grid and the UK government, as well as inflation-linked PPAs with corporates. Assets that comprise the fund’s diverse portfolio include Cleve Hill, a solar and storage project in the UK; Rassau Synchronous Condenser in Wales; and Habitat Energy, a UK market-leading battery optimisation platform, utilising advanced machine learning.

Deal of the Year

Winner: Vantage Towers (Buyers: KKR, Global Infrastructure Partners. Seller: Vodafone Group)

Second place: National Gas (Buyers: Macquarie Asset Management, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation. Seller: National Grid)
Third place: Atlantia (Blackstone, Edizione Holding, Fondazione CRT)

KKR and Global Infrastructure Partners entered into a strategic co-control partnership with Vodafone to acquire an 81.7 percent stake in Vantage Towers, giving the company an enterprise value of more than €19 billion. Both firms were investing through their core infrastructure funds.

Vantage already has a large footprint of more than 84,000 sites in 10 European markets, and in 2021 signed an agreement with 1&1 Mobilfunk to support the company in the rapid roll-out of its 5G network, covering potentially up to 5,000 sites throughout Germany for the next 20 years. With further investments from the consortium, Vantage aims to take advantage of emerging trends such as autonomous driving, telemedicine, virtual reality, smart farming and IoT.

Power & Utilities Deal of the Year

Winner: Coriance (Buyers: Vauban Infrastructure Partners, Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations. Seller: Igneo Infrastructure Partners)

Second place: National Gas (Buyers: Macquarie Asset Management, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation. Seller: National Grid)
Third place: Northumbrian Water Group (Buyer: KKR. Seller: CK Hutchison Holdings)

Vauban and CDC acquired the entire share capital of Coriance in a €1 billion deal. Founded in 1998, Coriance builds, develops and operates urban heating and cooling networks, predominantly fuelled by renewable energies such as geothermal and biomass, as well as recovered energy. With a portfolio of around 40 networks in France, Coriance has a thermal production capacity of over 1.8GW and supplies heat to the equivalent of around 250,000 homes. Coriance is also the most advanced player in the market in terms of its use of renewable and recovered energies, which accounted for almost 70 percent of its energy mix in 2022.

Energy Transition Deal of the Year

Winner: X-Elio (Buyer: Brookfield Asset Management. Seller: KKR)

Second place: Asterion Energies (Buyer: Repsol. Seller: Asterion Industrial Partners)
Third place: London Array Offshore Wind (Buyer: Schroders Greencoat. Seller: Ørsted)

In October 2023, Brookfield acquired an incremental 50 percent stake in X-Elio from KKR, taking full control of the vertically integrated solar photovoltaic development platform. Since Brookfield’s initial investment in 2019, it has helped X-Elio grow in the core solar regions of Spain, Italy, the US, Australia, Japan and Latin America, tripling its annual ready-to-build run-rate from around 500MW to 1.5GW. The company now has 3.4GW of cumulative operational projects across four continents, with full in-house capabilities spanning greenfield development to asset management, as well as a self-funded perpetual growth engine with significant scale-up potential.

Digital Infrastructure Deal of the Year

Winner: Vantage Towers (Buyers: KKR, Global Infrastructure Partners. Seller: Vodafone Group)

Second place: Nextfibre (InfraVia Capital Partners, Liberty Global Téléfonica)
Third place: Data4 (Buyer: Brookfield Asset Management. Seller: AXA IM)

The winner of the Digital Infrastructure Deal of the Year, Global and Deal of the Year, Europe, is also the winner of a third prize: Digital Infrastructure Deal of the Year, Europe. KKR and Global Infrastructure Partners’ acquisition aims to transform Vantage Towers, Europe’s second-largest telecom tower company, into a leading player in the sector, accelerating its growth trajectory with additional investment in its network and expansion into fast-growing adjacent markets.

The two firms intend to fast-forward an ambitious programme to build new sites for existing clients through a build-to-suit initiative and enhance Vantage’s commercial capabilities, driving the utilisation of existing assets by capturing additional co-location opportunities from new and third-party customers.

Energy Transition Investor of the Year

Winner: Vauban Infrastructure Partners

Second place: Investment Management Corporation of Ontario
Third place: Partners Group

Vauban has completed a number of high-profile energy transition deals in the past year, including the €153 million acquisition of Nordic Renewable Power, which is responsible for three operational wind farm projects across Norway and Sweden.

The French firm also strengthened its involvement in Proxiserve upon the exit of its historical co-shareholder, Asterion Industrial Partners, in a €415 million deal. Proxiserve is a prominent player in France’s energy services sector, offering services including heat and water smart metering, as well as heat pumps. In addition, Vauban, along with Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, acquired Coriance, a company which develops and operates urban heating and cooling networks, fuelled predominantly by renewable energy including geothermal and biomass.

Digital Infrastructure Investor of the Year

Winner: Brookfield Asset Management

Second place: InfraVia Capital Partners
Third place: KKR

Brookfield’s standout European digital infrastructure deal was its acquisition of a 51 percent stake in Deutsche Telekom’s mobile tower business GD Towers, alongside DigitalBridge, for €17.5 billion. But the firm also completed its debut deal in the European data centre market acquiring Data4 for a reported €3.5 billion from AXA Investment Managers. Data4 was established by Colony Capital, now DigitalBridge, in 2006 and operates around 30 data centres in France, Italy, Spain, Poland and Luxembourg. The company is also developing a former army barracks in Germany that could reach 20,000 square metres and 180GW.

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