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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
Market supply and demand dynamics evolved favourably for most of the financial year, supporting our investment thesis and driving Attero’s strong performance. Market gate fees increased across all three of Attero’s main business lines. A tax of €32/ton on imported waste (to align with the existing tax on incinerated domestic waste) has taken effect from 1 January 2020. Following the renegotiation of most of its imported waste contracts, Attero expects that the immediate impact of the tax on its financial performance will be limited.
In June 2019, Mel Kroon was appointed Chair of Attero. Mel was previously the CEO of TenneT, the Dutch electricity transmission grid operator. Mel brings a strong background in asset intensive industries, and an in-depth understanding of the energy sector. He also has experience of working across the private and public sectors in the Netherlands and Europe.
Covid-19 has caused a drop in industrial and commercial waste, partly offset by an increase in household waste. Attero is protected from this to an extent thanks to its medium-term contracts for waste supply and its buffer of untreated waste, but we do anticipate a decline in Attero’s 2020 performance as a result of the pandemic.
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. ESVAGT has been operating since 1981, employs c.900 people and owns a fleet of c.40 vessels.
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 four 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.
Developments in the year
The market conditions in which ESVAGT operates improved during the second half of the year. The wind service operation vessels (‘SOVs’) segment is the primary driver of growth for the business where ESVAGT is the market leader. In the North Sea, ESVAGT has committed to five new contract backed SOVs since our acquisition.
Internationally, ESVAGT is developing its focus on the US wind market, where it is preparing to support the expansion strategy of its European customers. ESVAGT is in discussions with the shipyard contracted to supply new SOVs, which is experiencing financial difficulties. We do not expect this to result in a material impact on ESVAGT’s ability to fulfil its contractual obligations.
In the emergency rescue and response (‘ERRV’) segment, stabilising supply/demand dynamics allowed ESVAGT’s management to successfully implement its strategy of improving contract coverage for the fleet. However, we anticipate that the recent drop in oil prices will impact ERRV demand in 2020 and negatively affect ESVAGT’s spot business.
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:
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 continues to perform well, operationally and financially, and to support the Company’s yield. Its core business, generating baseload electricity from captured landfill methane and captured mineral methane, exceeded budget. The positive valuation impact from this outperformance was offset by weaker power prices and lower power price expectations.
Infinis continues to review growth opportunities, commissioning 12MW of new power response capacity during the year. It has also progressed development plans for energy parks which combine technologies, co-locating subsidy-free solar PV power generation with Infinis’s existing captured landfill methane activities and utilising spare grid capacity. Infinis appointed a new Head of Solar in March 2020 to support this initiative.
The regulatory outlook has improved with the resumption of Capacity Market payments (including back-dated payments covering the suspension period) and a conclusion to Ofgem’s Targeted Charging Review of network ‘residual charges’. However, significant uncertainty still exists over the broader future of network access charging arrangements and the level of post-Brexit carbon price support.
Although not yet quantifiable, we increasingly see additional value in Infinis’s strong environmental credentials and in particular its negative net carbon footprint due to the atmospheric emission of methane that it prevents. In September 2019, Richard Lewis was appointed as a non-executive director to the Board of Infinis, bringing 25 years of experience in the energy industry.
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.
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 has performed in line with our investment case since acquisition and has shown good resilience during the Covid-19 lockdown with all plants operating close to normally. This period has increased focus on sterilisation, decontamination and disinfection in the medical and pharmaceutical industry and additional growth opportunities are arising, in particular for test kits and laboratory devices. We have seen a reduction in demand for the sterilisation of products where the medical need has been postponed due to Covid-19.
We continue to see Ionisos as a very resilient business with loyal customers. The management team is making good progress in creating extra capacity at existing facilities, including extension projects. During summer 2019, Ionisos completed the acquisition of Steril Milano, a smaller sterilisation business in Italy. This gave Ionisos ownership of two operating ethylene oxide facilities and an E-Beam plant, which was under construction and entered in operation in December. We have made good progress with other identified growth projects.
Since the end of the financial year, we have refinanced Ionisos’s debt facilities, achieving better terms than anticipated at acquisition, with longer maturities and lower cost.
3i Infrastructure acquired Ionisos in September 2019, having committed to invest in July 2019.
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 has outperformed our investment case since our acquisition in April 2019. This was primarily due to low levels of customer churn in the Metering business and higher order intake in the Infrastructure Services business, confirming Joulz’s position at the heart of its customers’ mission critical electrical infrastructure and the strong energy transition trend in the Netherlands.
The operational carve-out from Stedin is on track to be completed by the end of 2020. We have strengthened the management team with the appointments of a new Head of Metering, a new Head of Business Development, and an Interim CFO.
The strategy for Joulz is to build on its customer relationships and develop into an integrated energy solution provider. In line with this strategy, Joulz acquired GreenFlux’s electric vehicle charging station business on 31 March 2020, with over 3,000 charging points across the Netherlands, and the management team is evaluating several further growth opportunities in particular in the solar and heat sectors.
In March 2020, Sjoerd Vollebregt was appointed Chair of Joulz. Sjoerd brings significant experience in large international industrial companies, having been Chair and CEO of Stork BV, an industrial engineering conglomerate until 2014.
3i Infrastructure acquired Joulz in April 2019, having committed to invest in March 2019.
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
Over recent years the oil storage market has faced two challenges: an extended period of backwardation in the oil product markets, alongside uncertainty around product demand in the lead up to the introduction of the new IMO 2020 regulation, which regulates the sulphur content of fuel used for shipping. Across the sector, terminals have seen less demand for storage in certain locations, as well as downward pressure on storage pricing.
Since its introduction on 1 January 2020, IMO 2020 has created opportunities for oil storage terminals – with storage being required for a wider range of product specifications. Since March 2020, the oil products market has been in contango, caused by a sudden drop in global demand for oil products and the resulting drop in oil prices. This provides a helpful backdrop to oil storage terminals, as contango creates the incentive to store and leads to greater demand and therefore upward pressure on storage pricing.
The Oystercatcher portfolio features strong locations and high quality facilities and service levels which are highly valued by customers. This is particularly the case in Singapore, which represents over half of the value of our investment, and where we expect the terminal to benefit from growing petroleum product consumption in Asia over the long term.
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.
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 performed broadly in line with expectations during the year. The core business in the North Sea delivered continued revenue growth, partially offset by network installation delays in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tampnet has been awarded a contract to enter the Canadian market where it will supply 5G coverage to two ExxonMobil owned platforms in offshore Newfoundland. We continue to evaluate a number of further growth opportunities internationally.
During the first half of the year, Tampnet’s debt facilities were refinanced at a lower cost and with longer maturities than assumed in our investment case. We have also strengthened the management team with the appointment of Magnus Mandersson as Chair; Magnus has over 25 years of experience in the global telecommunications sector.
3i Infrastructure acquired 50% of Tampnet in March 2019 alongside Danish pension fund ATP, having committed to invest in July 2018.
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
TCR performed well in the year, growing to lease ground support equipment in 149 airports, predominantly in Europe, where it is the market leader, but also in Malaysia and expanding into Australia, New Zealand, the US and the Middle East under our ownership.
The company has made good progress in anchoring its activities in the US with new contracts. It also won a repair and maintenance contract with British Airways, completed a sale and lease back agreement of equipment with Swissport in Saudi Arabia and secured a full service rental contract with Etihad in Abu Dhabi, which marked TCR’s entry into the Middle East.
TCR has been affected by the dramatic fall in air travel since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The majority of its revenues are lease rental payments that are fixed and not impacted by reduced air traffic. Some of TCR’s customers, comprising airlines, airports and ground handlers, are facing cash flow shortfalls and that could potentially have consequential effects on TCR. Longer term, air traffic may take several years to return to pre-pandemic levels.
During these uncertain trading conditions, TCR is managing its liquidity position and working closely with its customers. It will also explore potential new business opportunities arising from the crisis.
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:
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
Valorem had a good financial year with revenue from electricity generation above budget, 117MW of projects becoming operational and 160MW of projects closed. Since acquisition, the company has now increased its asset base by 2.5x, owning 436MW of fully developed renewable capacity as of February 2020 compared to 179MW in September 2016. Valorem’s operational portfolio is relatively young, with an average residual feed-in-tariff life of over 12 years.
Valorem has built an impressive future pipeline of 3.5GW of wind, solar and hydro projects across European geographies, of which 1.5GW is at an advanced development stage. The development of this pipeline into operation will drive future value growth.
Valorem continues to focus on the conversion of its pipeline in France, on larger wind and solar projects, and a successful diversification into hydro, fostered by the acquisition of FHA in July 2019.
In April 2019, following a wide auction, Valorem sold 90% of a Finnish project totalling 71MW. The rest of the Finnish pipeline continues to make progress.
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.