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GIP and Vinci jointly evaluate two India highway acquisitions

Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) and transport infrastructure operator Vinci Concessions are looking to jointly acquire two highway assets in India, according to three sources familiar.

One of these is the 100km Solapur Tollways in Maharashtra state, which is owned by Kolkata-based Bharat Road Network (BRNL). The second is the 89km Vindhyachal Expressway in Madhya Pradesh. This belongs to JMC Projects, the roads arm of Mumbai-based Kalpataru Projects International.

GIP and France-headquartered global transport infrastructure operator Vinci Concessions are currently evaluating the two assets and discussions for both are at an advanced stage, the sources said.

Fund manager GIP and Vinci have a prior relationship, both being shareholders in London’s Gatwick Airport. The pair may set up a joint platform to hold Indian roads once they acquire some assets, the sources said.

In May this year, a consortium of lenders to Solapur Tollways – led by Union Bank of India – decided to hold an auction to substitute BRNL as the concessionaire due to delays in debt servicing. On behalf of the lenders, Grant Thornton sought expressions of interest and is running the substitution process.

An incoming operator will need to complete the development of a 17km stretch, which BRNL has been unable to do. The developer has been collecting tolls for 83km of the road since February 2020.

In August last year, India Ratings and Research affirmed its D rating on Solapur Tollways’ project term loans totalling INR 5.88bn (USD 710m), citing the repayment delays.

Vindhyachal Expressway has a 30-year concession beginning 2013 and JMC started collecting tolls in February 2015.

This will be the second time that Vinci is looking at the Indian market. A local media report in 2015 said that the company wound up Indian operations after the government decided to go slow on awarding public-private partnership (PPP) projects and switched to turnkey contracts and a hybrid form of PPPs.

Kalpataru Projects, BRNL and Vinci did not respond to requests for comment. GIP declined to offer a comment.