Monday 24 October 2011

News Briefs - Israel, South Africa, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, New Zealand, Texas


Sale of stake in Cross Israel Highway:  The Cross Israel Highway (Route 6) is Israel's great north-south highway corridor extending from the outskirts of Haifa, to be nestled between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, towards Beersheva.  The road is owned by concessionaire Derech Eretz Highways Ltd.  Globes reports that Shikun u'Binui Holdings has sold 24.6% of Derech Eretz to private equity company Israel Infrastructure Fund for NIS773 million (US$212 million). The sale reduces Shikun u'Binui's shareholding in the company to 25.5%, and the company reports a return on the sale of 8%.

Globes says:

Shikun u'Binui did not sell its 24.5% stake in Derech Eretz Highways Management Ltd., which operates the Road 6 toll road, and is waiting for permission to increase its stake to 35%. The deal reflects a company value of NIS 3 billion  (US$824 million) for Derech Eretz. The sale is part of IIF's effort to block rival Noy Infrastructures and Energy Fund's acquisition of 49% of the government's rights in Derech Eretz for NIS 1.39 billion (US$382 million). Shikun u'Binui said that the price tag was based on Derech Eretz's value in the Noy Fund deal. 

Price schedule is here in Hebrew

South Africa

Toll road success:  For all of the controversy over the Gauteng tolling project, it is clear that toll roads have already proven profitable for private investors in South Africa. The Financial Mail reports on the success of the N3 PPP between Heidelburg and Cedara (the complete N3 connects Johannesburg and Durban). N3 Toll Concession (Pty) Ltd won the concession in 1999 for a 30 year period, so is nearly halfway through the concession to design, construct, finance, operate and maintain the highway.   The concession has quite diverse ownership.   The article contains comments from Old Mutual Life Assurance Company Infrastructure, Development and Environmental Assets Ideas Fund manager Jurie Swart, who says 25% of the fund is invested in toll roads (other roads include the N4 between Pretoria and the Mozambique border, and the N1/N4 toll road).

Swart claims there are benefits beyond simply financing and building the road:"Each road has a pavement management system that has to conform to national road specifications. It has a dedicated engineering team, and a maintenance programme that must be audited independently. Toll toads like the N3 to Durban are also involved in local tourism efforts. " Certainly there is transparency about the contracts, and they do appear to help ensure a high standard of service.

Investors are keen to follow this with the controversial N1-N2 Winelands toll road. 

For all of the controversy over tolling in South Africa, it has worked to develop a lot of new highways, and most of all the PPPs have delivered world class standards of service.

Prices for the N3 toll road, per toll plaza, are here.


A report from Trend notes that one of Tajikistan's major highways (M34) is a 354-kilometre toll road from Dushanbe to Chinaz. It is state owned, financed through a $280 million loan from China, which the Tajik government is repaying through the toll which started on 1 April 2010.

It wasn't easy to find much information about this road, but it is encouraging that tolling has penetrated central Asia, and I can only hope Tajikistan is making sure it optimises its revenue from tolls.

Sri Lanka

Toll road opening delayed:  Sri Lanka's first toll road opening has been delayed till December 2011 according to Lanka Business.   I reported the details about the road in July, when it was about to open.  Tolls were already controversial then for risking essentially fraud, and creating potential bottlenecks.  Well the Sri Lanka Road Development Authority has created more controversy with the delay, which is due to failure to complete toll booths and fuel stations on the road.   A fibre optic network is to connect toll booths, and the expressway curiously will have its own fire brigade and police patrols to optimise response to incidents.  Tolls are meant to be collected manually with a closed system involving a ticket issued on entry, and used on exit to determine the price.   Yes, you read correctly, and this is in 2011.


Astratel expands toll road portfolio:  The Jakarta Globe reports that Astratel Nusantara, the highway construction unit of Astra International, has bought 95% of the 40.5-km toll-road linking Kertosono and Mojokerto, in East Java (outside Surabaya) for Rp750 billion ($88 million). 

Astratel also owns:
- 79.3% of PT Marga Mandalasakti which owns the 72.5-km toll road linking Merak (Banten province) and Serpong (outer Jakarta); and
- 40% of PT Marga Trans Nusantara, part of a joint venture building the 12.5-kilometer Jakarta Outer Ring Road II project which will link Serpong and Kunciran in Jakarta.

The total value of its toll road assets will be Rp3.4 trillion(US$384 million).

New Zealand

Hapless toll road debt grows: I've written before about the financial disaster that is the Route K toll road in Tauranga.  The bad story continues.  The Bay of Plenty Times reports that debt from the road is now NZ$60 million (US$48 million) on a road that cost NZ$45 million, and daily traffic count is 5,000.  Revenue needs to double for the road to be viable, and at present trucks form 13% of users, but 38% of revenue.  Annual losses just go on debt.  How long can this continue?

Texas, USA

Indra wins contract: 4 Traders reports that Spanish company Indra has won a €10.6 million (US$14.7 million) contract with TexToll services in Texas (itself a subsidiary of Cintra, the subsidiary of Spanish infrastructure investor firm Ferrovial).  The contract is to implement electronic toll collection back office services on the SH-130 toll road near Austin, the LBJ Express project and the North Tarrant Express Highway project.  It reportedly makes a big impact on the firm's presence in the USA.


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