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AXA, F2i consolidate Italian gas grids with €2.1bn loan

A club of 12 banks is providing a seven-year loan to fund the team’s recent acquisition of GDF Suez’s Italian gas grid and re-leverage two other local gas grids bought over the last two years. AXA/F2i is now Italy’s second-largest gas distributor.

A consortium of French investor AXA Private Equity (21.4 percent percent), Italian infrastructure fund F2i (64.3 percent) and Enel Distribuzione (14.3 percent) have taken out a €2.1 billion loan to consolidate its Italian gas distribution businesses, emerging as Italy’s second-largest gas distributor behind local utility Snam Rete Gas.

The seven-year loan breaks down into three tranches: a €1.77 billion tranche that will be used to fund the team’s recent acquisition of GDF Suez’s Italian gas network – G6 Rete Gas – for an enterprise value of €772 million as well as refinance loans for Enel Rete Gas and E.On Rete Gas, purchased by the consortium in 2009 and 2010 respectively. The loan also includes a €300 million capex facility and a €40 million revolving working capital tranche.

Margins on the €2.1 billion loan start at 210 basis points and go up to 335 basis points over the last two years of the loan, to encourage refinancing. 

Banca IMI (€410.33 million), Banca MPS (€205.17 million), BNP Paribas (€200 million), Bank of America Merrill Lynch (€126.67 million), Centrobanaca (€30 million), Credit Agricole (€121.53 million), HSBC (€174.99 million), ING (€123.1 million), Mediobanca (€205.17 million), Natixis (€150.48 million), Societe Generale (€161.8 million) and Unicredit (€203.95 million).

To view the completed debt profile for the loan, please go to Infrastructure Investor Assets.

In related news, Infrastructure Investor exclusively reported last week that AXA PE’s third infrastructure fund has raised €750 million. The fund is expected to hit the €900 million mark in October and €1 billion by the end of November. 

Additionally, a big-ticket commitment from a limited partner could also arrive before the year is out, taking the fund past €1 billion raised. AXA PE’s third infrastructure fund is targeting a final close of around €1 billion. While the fund does not have an official hard cap, AXA PE will not seek to raise more than €1.5 billion for the fund. However, the potential sale of AXA PE – the private equity arm of insurer AXA – may delay this timeline for a couple of months, sources indicated.

The private equity arm has two prior infrastructure funds. The first was a €200 million vehicle formed specifically so that it could acquire a stake in SANEF, the French motorway operator. Its second fund closed on €1.1 billion. Like its two predecessors, Fund III is also expected to focus on investments across France, Italy, Germany and the UK.