Babcock & Brown's big asset shuffle

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Babcock & Brown Wind Partners (BBW) acquired four small wind plant totalling 19.6 MW in Germany in late June in the midst of selling off a significant volume of wind power assets throughout Europe owned by it and its parent, infrastructure investment company Babcock & Brown. B&B is traded on the Australian stock exchange and currently ranks among the world's top five wind power owners. The sale of a significant part its European assets (though not those acquired since February) was announced earlier in the year as an attempt to capture "unrecognised value" in the wind portfolio (Windpower Monthly, April 2008), but is now seen as a strategy to reduce the group's debt burden. B&B's share price tumbled in the wake of the global credit crisis and fears that it may not be able to repay its debts. Three of the just acquired German wind plant, Coswig (5.9 MW), Eschweiler (4 MW), and Sonnenberg (1.7 MW), have come into BBW ownership under a framework agreement with Spanish wind project developer Gamesa, extended in October 2007 to include ten German wind stations with a combined capacity of around 90 MW. BBW says the agreement now covers about 155 MW that could become available in 2008 followed by 200 MW in 2009 in Spain and Germany. All use Gamesa machines and are operational. The fourth project acquired in June is the 8 MW Calau wind station, under construction using Vestas 2 MW machines. That project is also part of a framework agreement, this time with German developer Plambeck Neue Energien from March 2006 and covering 255 MW of projects in Germany, with the first 105 MW due for purchase in 2008 and the rest in 2009. BBW is funding the purchases from existing resources. BBW and B&B are between them offering nearly 2000 MW of wind assets out of a roughly 3000 MW European portfolio, with BBW putting 831 MW of its operating capacity in Portugal, Spain, France and Germany on the table and B&B offering a further 150 MW of operating capacity plus over 1000 MW under development. The assets are packaged by country, with various options available, though the companies say they will only sell assets where the "valuation is exceptional." Included in the offer is 420 MW in Spain, where below average wind speeds have hit output. Observers estimate the sale could yield over A$3 billion. According to BBW's Anthony Kennaway, indicative bids show a "satisfying" degree of interest from a "mix of utilities, infrastructure investors and financial bidders" in Europe and worldwide. These have now been asked to submit binding bids, with an announcement expected by the end of September at the latest. In Italy, B&B recently raised EUR 30 million by selling its 30% stake in Parchi Eolici Ulassai, the indirect owner through Sardeolica of a 72 MW wind farm complex operating in Ulassai on the island of Sardinia. The purchaser is the wind plant's co-owner, Saras, an Italian oil refiner.

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