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First foray for Transurban into Queensland assets
* Part of push by state governments to offload assets
* Transurban shares on trading halt pending release of details
By Swati Pandey
SYDNEY, April 24 (Reuters) - A consortium led by Transurban Group, Australia's biggest toll road owner, has won a bid to buy toll firm Queensland Motorways Ltd for $6.6 billion in its first foray into the country's third most populous state.
The A$7.1 billion sale is part of a push by Australian state governments to sell off large infrastructure assets to pay for capital works programmes.
State governments, once hesitant to give up tax revenue by selling infrastructure, appear to have had a change of heart since the state of New South Wales sold its desalination plant for $2.3 billion in 2012.
Transurban led a consortium that also included superannuation fund conglomerate AustralianSuper and Abu Dhabi Investment Co, beating two rival international bidders.
"Clearly this is a portfolio of attractive assets with all the characteristics of our existing networks in Sydney and Melbourne, and the attractive demographics of the Queensland market," said Transurban Chief Executive Officer Scott Charlton in a statement.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission earlier this month gave the green-light to the Transurban-led consortium's purchase.
The sale, subject to certain conditions, is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2014.
The consortium will release details later in the day on how they plan to fund the deal. Transurban's shares were on a trading halt pending the outcome of a share sale to institutional shareholders to help fund the deal.
"The price paid is consistent with previous toll road transaction metrics," AustralianSuper Head of Infrastructure Jason Peasley said in a statement late last night.
AustralianSuper currently has $8 billion in Australian and global infrastructure investments, including the Queensland Motorways investment, it said.
Infrastructure assets such as toll roads, power stations and ports are in hot demand from pension funds and other investors for their stable, long-run returns and tough barriers to competition, particularly in highly regulated developed countries such as Australia.
($1 = 1.0766 Australian Dollars)
(Additional reporting by Colin Packham and Sonali Paul; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)