Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ferrovial acquisitions under investigation in United Kingdom

Ferrovial buys Texas-based Webber Group for $220 million

Construction firm aims to build foundation for US operations

El Pais Spain | M. ELKIN
Copyright 2005


Ferrovial, Spain's second-largest construction group, bought the Texas-based Webber Group for $220 million (€178 million) on Tuesday, the Spanish company said in a statement to national securities regulators.

The purchase of Webber, whose construction and services operations are located in Houston and Dallas, will provide Ferrovial with an established base to provide support for its $37 billion contract with the Texas Department of Transportation to build and operate the Trans-Texas Corridor, running from the Mexican border to Texas' northern border with Oklahoma.

The deal, which is pending approval by US securities regulators, involves Ferrovial taking control of 100 percent of the Webber Group, which includes the W. W. Webber Inc. construction and services unit, Southern Crushed Concrete and the Webber Management Group. In total, Webber controls assets worth about $500 million, and estimates that its sales for this year will be about $400 million.

Ferrovial said that buying Webber will give it the necessary footing in Texas to support its 50-year contract to build and manage the Trans-Texas Corridor, awarded to Ferrovial unit Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte (Cintra) in December 2004. The project includes 1,300 kilometers of roads, railways, and power, water and telecommunications facilities.

Under UK investigation
In Brussels on Tuesday, the European Commission returned to British authorities the competition investigation into the purchase by Ferrovial and Australia's Macquarie of Exeter airport in southwest England. According to the Commission, the deal may pose a threat to competition in the area, and the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is the best authority to judge whether this is so.

Ferrovial and Macquarie already operate the airport in nearby Bristol. The OFT will decide whether the two companies have an unfair advantage over their rivals in that region of England.

Also on Tuesday, Ferrovial made a preliminary offer for management of the airport in Budapest, Hungry, which is now being privatized. Yesterday was the deadline for presenting non-binding offers for control of 75 percent of the airport management, valued at about $500 million. The closing date for definitive offers will be November 2.

Abertis, which is controlled by Actividades de Construcción y Servicios (ACS) and La Caixa, is leading a consortium including Aena that also filed a bid.

© 2005 El Pais:
In English: