Acciona Presses On Despite ATLL Limbo

14 Aug 2015
Available with corporate subscription

On 23 July 2015, the Catalan Parliament voted to delay the transfer of Barcelona’s bulk water supplier, Aigües Ter de Llobregat (ATLL) from current licensee Acciona Agua to a public water agency. The vote is the latest chapter in a three-year legal battle between Acciona, Agbar, and the Catalan government surrounding the validity of the tender process and the qualifications of the winning bid. This battle took a major turn in Agbar’s favor on 20 June when the Catalan Supreme Court annulled the ATLL award to Acciona on the grounds of an unequal selection process. The Catalan government lacks funds to compensate Acciona for the expropriation.

ATLL is one of Spain’s largest bulk water suppliers servicing 5 million people in nine municipalities within Barcelona’s metropolitan region. Its operating concession was awarded to Acciona/BTG Pactual in November 2012 for a 50-year duration with a bid worth over €1 billion. Agbar contested the award from the start, charging that Acciona failed to fully meet the tender selection criteria.

Acciona continues to appeal the 20 June decision in Madrid’s National Supreme Court while the Catalan government searches for a viable solution to move past the current stalemate; until the appeal is settled, Acciona continues to operate the concession despite legal uncertainty.

Bluefield Takeaways

  • Financial, judicial realities block ATLL buyback
  • Potential loss of ATLL concession significantly diminishes Acciona utility portfolio, positions the firm primarily as wastewater O&M provider
  • Sluggish Spanish growth highlights need for international diversification, larger wins in design and construction (D&C)