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Circular economy, Lower carbon economy
Attero owns two energy from waste (‘EfW’) plants, two sorting and pre-treatment facilities, six anaerobic digestion facilities, seven composting facilities and 10 landfills. The company processes waste from a diverse mix of domestic municipalities, commercial and industrial customers, as well as a number of UK and Irish exporters.
Attero has good revenue visibility due to its long-term contracts with customers. It is well positioned within the Dutch market with two of the largest and most efficient EfW plants in the country, strategically positioned with good port, road and rail access for both import and domestic waste supply. In addition, Attero is strongly positioned to benefit from favourable underlying trends in the European waste market, driven by EU directives targeting more recycling.
Developments in the year
Over the year, the business has proven resilient to the pandemic and operationally it performed broadly in line with our pre-Covid expectations.
Dutch waste volumes were in line with pre-Covid forecasts, and energy prices largely recovered to pre-Covid levels by the end of 2020. Although import volumes from the UK were weak, Attero covered this shortfall by drawing down from its waste buffer, allowing its plants to continue to operate at full capacity. A significant reduction in power prices affected the business’s financial performance in the first half of the year.
The organics business outperformed due to an unseasonably warm spring and more home gardening during Covid-19 lockdowns, which resulted in higher than forecasted volumes.
The landfill business also performed well, as higher gate fees offset lower volumes due to reduced construction activity.
The Dutch plastics recycling subsidy regime was revised, which will improve the economics of the plastics business unit.
Attero has developed a comprehensive sustainability strategy focused on maintaining a net neutral CO2 position each year, delivering a favourable biodiversity impact on the habitats surrounding Attero’s facilities beyond their permitting requirements and increasing the representation of women in the organisation.
DNS:NET is a leading independent telecommunications provider in Germany. Established in 1998, DNS:NET owns the largest independent fibre-to-the-cabinet network in the Berlin area and is rolling out a fibre-to-the home network in Berlin and the surrounding regions.
The company differentiates itself through a superior network, local brand recognition and attractive pricing of high bandwidth products, which drives high customer satisfaction. 3i Infrastructure’s backing will allow DNS:NET to accelerate its build programme to provide gigabit-ready connectivity to its customers.
In June 2021, 3i Infrastructure plc invested c.€182m to acquire a 60% stake in DNS:NET.
Fibre is superior to other broadband access technologies because it provides reliable low latency, high bandwidth and distance-independent connectivity for both download and upload. Demand for FTTH connectivity is forecast to grow rapidly, as consumers normalise data intensive activities such as cloud-based remote working, high definition streaming and online gaming, and increasingly view high speed broadband as an essential service.
Germany lags behind most European countries in its FTTH deployment, with only 14% coverage today compared to the European average of 33%. The market is projected to grow at 30% p.a. to meet the German government’s objective of every one of its 43 million households having access to gigabit speed broadband by 2025.
Lower carbon economy
Headquartered in Esbjerg, Denmark, ESVAGT is a leading provider of emergency rescue and response vessels (“ERRV”) and related services to the offshore energy industry in and around the North Sea and the Barents Sea. The company is also the market leader in the fast growing segment of service operation vessels (“SOV”) for the offshore wind industry.
Its ERRV services mainly involve the rescue and recovery of personnel, but also include the dispersion and recovery of oil spills, crew transfers and towing. ESVAGT is the leading provider of ERRV services in Denmark and Norway, with market shares of approximately 100% and 50%, respectively, as well as an established and growing presence in the UK. The majority of ESVAGT’s ERRV revenues are associated with North Sea oil and gas production support, with the remainder generated by supporting exploration activity.
ESVAGT is also the pioneer and market leader in the provision of SOVs to offshore wind farms, with seven bespoke vessels in operation and a further two under construction. SOVs are purpose-built, high performance vessels, providing efficient transport of maintenance technicians to wind turbines and other offshore wind equipment, under long term contracts. The offshore wind market, and hence demand for SOVs, is expected to grow strongly over the coming years, creating significant opportunities for the company.
ESVAGT has been operating since 1981, employs c.1,100 people and owns a fleet of c.40 vessels.
Developments in the year
Overall the business performed in line with our post-Covid expectations during the year. The majority of ESVAGT’s contracted earnings are now generated by the SOV segment, where it is the established market leader in European offshore wind.
The first of three new MHI Vestas SOVs was successfully delivered into operations in January 2021. The remaining two vessels are still under construction with delivery dates later in 2021. ESVAGT will begin participating in SOV tenders in the US in the coming year through its recently announced joint venture with Crowley.
In the legacy ERRV fleet, performance in 2020 was initially negatively impacted by the oil price decline associated with the first wave of Covid-19, but the market has improved in the early part of 2021 with ESVAGT’s fleet fully contracted for the summer months.
3i Infrastructure acquired ESVAGT from AP Møller-Maersk and other minority shareholders in September 2015, in a consortium with AMP Capital.
ESVAGT has strong infrastructure characteristics and operates in an attractive market:
ESVAGT’s SOVs support the efficient maintenance of offshore windfarms, a key contribution to the energy transition.
Beyond that, it has continued to develop its internal policies and sustainability strategy during the year, including making a net zero emission commitment. This involves measures such as fitting battery powered equipment on newer vessels, implementing operational procedures to save fuel across the fleet and, over the longer term, using sustainable fuel sources for new built SOVs and retrofitting part of the existing fleet with electric engines.
ESVAGT is also looking to upgrade the ballast water treatment systems on its vessels and significantly improve the removal of biological organisms to mitigate possible effects on the marine environment.
Lower carbon economy
Infinis is the largest generator of electricity from landfill gas (“LFG”) in the UK, with a portfolio of 121 landfill sites and total installed capacity of over 300MW.
Alkane Energy acquisition
In March 2018, the Company announced its intention to increase its investment in Infinis by £125 million to fund Infinis’s acquisition of Alkane Energy (‘Alkane’), an independent power generator from both coal mine methane (‘CMM’) and reserve power (‘Peaking’) operations and the largest generator of electricity from CMM in the UK.
Developments in the year
Infinis performed well through the Covid-19 crisis, operationally and financially, exceeding budget in each of its main divisions: captured landfill methane, capture mineral methane and power response. Its cash flow generation continues to support the Company’s yield.
The baseload power price environment has improved over the last six months driven by rising gas and carbon prices. Peak power prices were also more volatile, which benefitted Infinis’s power response assets in the year.
Good progress has been made in developing a new solar division that will create energy parks by co-locating subsidy-free solar, and potentially energy storage, on existing sites where Infinis already operates. The team working on solar development now comprises six employees including a new Head of Solar, recruited in November 2020. The first 7MW site at Ling Hall is now operational and a further 75MW are in the planning process with construction expected to commence in FY22.
In January, Infinis completed a refinancing on favourable terms, extending the maturity of its debt facilities and thereby establishing a platform to fund future solar growth.
The investment in Infinis is foremost a yield play. Its front-ended cashflows balance other recent investments by the Company in more growth-oriented businesses. Revenues are underpinned by the inflation-linked UK Renewables Obligation Certificate (“ROC”) regime until 2027. Infinis could also become a platform to make new investments in activities such as distributed power generation from other gas sources, distributed energy storage by exploiting the business’s spare engine and grid connection capacity, and additional landfill gas sites.
Infinis is the largest generator of electricity from LFG in the UK, with a portfolio of 121 landfill sites and total installed capacity of over 300MW. LFG is produced by decomposing organic matter in landfill sites. If released into the atmosphere unchecked, LFG contributes to pollution and is a potent greenhouse gas. By extracting LFG from landfill sites, Infinis fulfils an essential role in helping landfill operators meet their environmental compliance obligations. By using the collected LFG to generate electricity, Infinis supplies distribution networks with a consistent source of baseload power.
Infinis continues to demonstrate a strong health and safety record and commitment to the safety and well-being of its employees and stakeholders. These high standards were recognised through the retention of the RoSPA President’s Gold Award for the 12th consecutive year.
Infinis also progressed its sustainability agenda, publishing a sustainability strategy that it developed within the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (‘SDGs’) and reporting on certain carbon footprint and exposure metrics, taking account of the TCFD recommendations.
Ionisos is a leading owner and operator of cold sterilisation facilities servicing the medical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Established in 1993 in Civrieux, France, Ionisos is the third largest cold sterilisation provider globally and operates a network of 11 facilities in Europe with market leading positions in France and Spain. It has over 200 employees and a highly diversified customer base of more than 1,000 customers.
Ionisos delivers a mission-critical, non-discretionary service for the medical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries for whom cold sterilisation is an essential component of the manufacturing process. It is typically applied to single use products that would be damaged by the heat and/or humidity of hot sterilisation methods.
Developments in the year
Overall, Ionisos outperformed expectations during the year. The business demonstrated its resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic. Volumes treated during the first lockdown were negatively affected, in particular due to lower demand for surgical goods (notably prosthetics), cosmetics and veterinary products, but overall activity recovered substantially through the second half of the year despite the resurgence of Covid-19 cases and further restrictions imposed by governments across Europe.
Over the medium term, we expect that increased testing, a focus on sterilisation, and potentially a certain degree of relocation of pharma and medical equipment manufacturing to Europe, will have a positive impact on Ionisos.
In February, Ionisos discovered serious shortcomings in the safety of operations in its Italian subsidiary, Steril Milano. Operations were stopped immediately and the regulatory authorities and customers were informed promptly.
A criminal complaint has been filed against certain individuals and an investigation is now underway, with the full cooperation of Steril Milano and Ionisos management. The Italian business represented approximately 3% of Ionisos’s 2020 earnings.
Expansion projects in Germany and France are progressing in line with management expectations and the construction of a new sterilisation site in Kleve, Germany, was launched in April 2021, following the signature of an offtake contract with an anchor customer. The site will sterilise medical devices with ethylene oxide and will start operations in mid-2022.
3i Infrastructure acquired Ionisos in September 2019, having committed to invest in July 2019.
Ionisos performs well on sustainability areas most relevant for its business. The management team has established a strategy to reduce the company’s direct and indirect emissions, drive effective sustainability practice across the value chain and provide a fulfilling work environment to its employees.
Lower carbon economy
Joulz is a leading owner and provider of essential energy infrastructure equipment and services in the Netherlands. It leases essential energy infrastructure equipment and meters to a large and diversified customer base of industrial, commercial and public sector customers. It has two business units: Infrastructure Services and Metering.
The Infrastructure Services business owns and leases medium voltage electricity infrastructure such as transformers, switchgear and cables under long-term contracts. The Metering business owns and leases approximately 50,000 electricity and gas meters for non-household customers under medium term contracts.
Developments in the year
Joulz performed broadly in line with expectations during the year, and Covid-19 has had limited commercial and financial impact on the business to date. The carveout from Stedin was completed in March 2021 and Joulz is now a fully independent business.
Joulz’s strategy is to build on its customer base and its position at the heart of customers’ critical electrical infrastructure, and to develop into a leading integrated energy transition solutions provider. Since our acquisition, Joulz is delivering on this strategy through both in-house offer development and targeted M&A. In March 2020, Joulz acquired Greenflux’s electric vehicle (‘EV’) charging business, and in March 2021 the company agreed to acquire Zonel, a roof top solar developer.
In line with this strategy, the company is seeing increasing customer interest in integrated solutions – involving technologies such as solar, batteries, EV charging, transformers, meters – which help customers achieve their energy transition objectives and also mitigate grid capacity constraints affecting their sites.
3i Infrastructure acquired Joulz in April 2019, having committed to invest in March 2019.
Joulz’s sustainability strategy is built around the UN’s SDGs that the business shares with its customers (Clean Energy, Sustainable Growth and Investing in Infrastructure) and those that are more directly related to the business itself (Health and Safety and Training/Education). During the year the business also completed the implementation of ISO14001 (Environmental management system.
Transport & logistics
Oystercatcher is the holding company through which the Company holds 45% interests in five subsidiaries of Oiltanking, located in Belgium, Malta, the Netherlands and Singapore.
These businesses provide over five million cubic metres of oil, petroleum and other oil-related storage facilities and associated services to a broad range of clients, including private and state oil companies, refiners, petrochemical companies and traders.
Oiltanking is one of the world’s leading independent storage partners for oils, chemicals and gases, operating 73 terminals in 22 countries with a total storage capacity of 19 million cubic metres.
On 2 May 2017, Oiltanking Ghent acquired 100% of Belgotank NV, a company which owns 82,000 cubic metres of tank capacity located on the Oiltanking Ghent site. These provide a mix of small tanks which are complementary to the business’s existing tank portfolio. On 25 September 2017, Oystercatcher made a follow-on equity investment of €2.4 million into Oiltanking Ghent to part fund that acquisition.
Developments in the year
Oystercatcher, in line with the broader oil storage sector, has benefitted from a contango market structure for oil-derived products during the year and overall performed ahead of our expectations. Storage rates have improved and many existing customers have been keen to renew storage contracts early. At the same time, customer activity levels have reduced due to lower end-user demand, caused by the Covid-related lockdown measures around the world, and this has negatively impacted throughput and ancillary services revenues.
In Singapore, our terminal continued to perform well as one of the leading gasoline blending terminals in Singapore and the wider region. The outlook for oil demand in the Asia Pacific region remains more positive than Europe’s, particularly driven by rising car ownership in Asia.
The investment in the Amsterdam, Malta and Singapore terminals was completed in August 2007, while the investment in the Ghent (Belgium) and Terneuzen (Netherlands) terminals was completed in June 2015.
The key elements of the investment case for the terminals are:
The transactions allowed 3i Infrastructure to partner with a leading player in the oil storage market, with a strong operational reputation.
Oiltanking GmbH, our coshareholder and operating partner for the Oystercatcher terminals, has long placed significant focus on sustainability. As well as continuing to ensure high standards of environmental management, our businesses are increasingly looking to leverage business opportunities related to sustainability, for example by supporting customers to grow their renewable fuels businesses by adapting storage infrastructure and providing blending capabilities.
Tampnet is the leading independent offshore communications network operator in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It is headquartered in Norway, with operations in the UK, Scandinavia and the USA.
Tampnet provides high speed, low latency and resilient data connectivity offshore through an established and comprehensive network of fibre optic cables, 4G base stations, and microwave links. It operates across four main business areas: fixed installations, mobile rigs and vessels, roaming for offshore workers and international carriers. The majority of its business involves providing fixed fibre links to oil platforms.
Developments in the year
Tampnet’s core business in the North Sea was stable in 2020 with customers continuing to upgrade their bandwidth requirements as new technologies are introduced to improve efficiency and extend hydrocarbon field lives. However, the oil price decline triggered by Covid-19 had a negative impact on Tampnet’s exploration-linked revenues and brought forward some decommissioning of offshore platforms. In addition, some new fibre connection projects and roaming installations were postponed due to pandemic-related operational restrictions.
The key highlight of the year was the acquisition of a 1,200km offshore fibre cable system in the Gulf of Mexico from BP, which completed at the end of March 2021. This acquisition is an important milestone which will allow Tampnet to replicate its fibre-led North Sea business model in the Gulf of Mexico.
3i Infrastructure acquired 50% of Tampnet in March 2019 alongside Danish pension fund ATP, having committed to invest in July 2018.
Tampnet has established a sustainability strategy focused on making a positive contribution to the underlying oil and gas industry. A major environmental benefit of Tampnet’s services is that they enable producers to use existing resources more efficiently, to reduce emissions through lower manning and to achieve better health and safety through remote operations. Beyond this, Tampnet is developing initiatives to provide offshore wind projects with fixed and roaming connectivity.
Transport & logistics
Globalisation, Lower carbon economy
Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, TCR is Europe’s largest independent asset manager of airport ground support equipment (“GSE”) and operates at 149 airports.
Since inception, TCR has defined the market for leased GSE, providing high quality assets and a full service leasing, maintenance and fleet management offering to its clients, which are predominantly independent ground handling companies, airlines and airports. This enables GSE operators to concentrate on their core business of ground handling. The GSE that TCR provides is critical infrastructure, without which some of Europe’s busiest airports could not operate.
In 2019, TCR acquired Aerolima, another lessor of GSE in France. The transaction added approximately 2,000 pieces of equipment, 20 airports and 12 workshops to TCR’s existing business.
Developments in the year
During the Covid-19 pandemic, TCR performed ahead of expectations in a severely hit aviation market thanks to its largely availability-based contracted revenue structure and minimal direct exposure to passenger movements. Its focus has been on maintaining a close and co-operative relationship with its customers, carefully managing revenue collection and its own liquidity, while positioning for the recovery and potential new business opportunities that the crisis in air travel may bring.
The last six months of the year were marked by a second wave of Covid-19 cases and further lockdown restrictions in most countries where TCR operates. Traffic is set to remain low in the near term, however the industry is cautiously optimistic that the roll-out of vaccines will allow for a gradual return to normal by 2024.
Looking ahead, we remain confident that the business will be able to take advantage of attractive growth opportunities. In particular, we see the crisis as the catalyst for TCR’s strategic diversification towards airport and airline customers looking to improve financial and operational flexibility and operate more sustainably postpandemic. TCR has recently secured long-term full service rental contracts with Finnair in Helsinki, and with Gate Gourmet (the global leader of airline catering) across multiple jurisdictions. It is also in discussions with several airports for fleet pooling initiatives.
TCR fits with the Company’s strategy of investing in companies with good asset backing, strong market positions and barriers to entry, yet with operational levers to achieve attractive returns for shareholders through active asset management:
Despite the Covid-19 crisis, the aviation industry continues its path towards a more environmentally sustainable model. In that context, TCR has developed its own sustainability strategy aiming to mitigate its direct impact on climate change, and through helping its customers reduce their emissions by supporting the transition to green ground support equipment (‘GSE’) including electric vehicles, pooling initiatives, and the roll-out of telematics on GSE, which contribute to optimising GSE fleet sizes and therefore lower total emissions.
Lower carbon economy
Valorem is a leading independent renewable energy development and operating company. It is one of the largest onshore wind developers in France, having developed over 480MW of capacity over the last 10 years.
The French power market is experiencing a major transition as it looks to reduce its reliance on nuclear generation and to increase generation from renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar. The energy transition has been continuously supported by the French governments over the past decade. With in-house capabilities across the entire project cycle and a strong local footprint, Valorem is well positioned to benefit from this shift in energy mix.
Developments in the year
Despite Covid-19, Valorem had a good year with revenues from electricity generation above budget and 45MW of wind, solar and hydro projects becoming operational. Since acquisition, the company has grown its asset base by 2.7x, now owning c.485MW of fully developed renewable capacity. Valorem continues to build an exciting pipeline of projects, including over 2GW of future capacity at advanced stages.
All assets continued to operate as normal during the lockdown periods. Some construction projects suffered only limited delays, mainly due to supply chain issues early in the pandemic.
Valorem’s operational portfolio is relatively young, with an average residual feed-in-tariff life of 12.5 years. It is also developing interesting initiatives to prepare for the postsubsidy world, with the signing of its first long-term corporate Power Purchase Agreement in France.
Renewables benefit from strong support from the French Government, which has an objective of a 32% renewables contribution by 2032 coupled with a carbonneutral electricity mix by 2040. In line with the need to triple the current installed PV capacity by 2023, in December 2017 the Government announced an increase of future PV auctions from 1.45GW to 2.45GW per annum over the next three years.
This investment diversifies the Company’s portfolio with exposure to a growing renewables business in one of the most attractive European markets, and access to recurring, inflation-linked cash flows underpinned by a robust regulatory regime.
Led by its experienced management team, Valorem is a best-in-class developer, being the fourth largest French wind developer and the largest independent one. It has a significant pipeline of projects at an advanced stage of development that it expects to convert into operating assets, with further projects at earlier stages to bring through the development process.
Valorem’s core business is to contribute to the shift in production of electricity to renewable energy sources. Beyond this, the company is actively promoting various initiatives to strengthen sustainable procurement, minimise its impact on the environment and biodiversity at each stage of the project lifecycle, reduce direct and indirect emissions and waste production, as well as to provide a healthy, safe and fulfilling work environment to all employees.