Abu Dhabi fund ADQ buys 49pc stake in infrastructure investor Plenary for $1 billion

Abu Dhabi fund ADQ buys 49pc stake in infrastructure investor Plenary for $1 billion

Plenary co-founder Paul Oppenheim (left) and CEO David Lamming (centre) with ADQ representative Ahmed Al Shamsi (left). Photo credit: Cameron Ramsay.

Abu Dhabi-based sovereign wealth fund ADQ has reached a deal to buy 49 per cent of shares in Australian infrastructure development financier and manager Plenary, a business that has been involved in a wide range of iconic projects from the Gold Coast Light Rail to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The deal, understood to be worth approximately $1 billion and still subject to regulatory approvals, will see ADQ acquire shares from existing Plenary shareholders, including all shares owned by Canadian pension fund CDPQ.

The group notes that CDPQ will continue to be invested and involved in a range of Plenary’s Australian assets while also supporting new projects, and remains the majority shareholder of Plenary Americas.

Founded in 2004 by John O’Rourke, Ray Wilson, Paul Oppenheim and Jim Cox, Plenary has built its reputation as a market-leading investor, developer and manager of public, urban and community infrastructure and property, and now has 21 assets under management (AUM) across Australia and the Middle East worth more than $32 billion.

As part of the partnership with ADQ, a co-development and investment platform will be developed to focus on public and social infrastructure opportunities in high-growth geographies including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, the Middle East and Central Asia. 

Plenary already has a presence in the Middle East, having established a presence there in 2022 with early momentum winning the UAE's first schools infrastructure public-private partnership (PPP), the Zayed City Schools project, and has been awarded other major projects expected to be announced shortly.

The transaction provides significant additional balance sheet strength for Plenary. ADQ will invest primary capital into Plenary that will be used to accelerate Plenary’s growth in its key markets across Australia, the Middle East, Asia, the UK and Europe, and support investment in all future project opportunities.

Plenary will remain majority owned and controlled by its Australian founders and senior management team and retains operational independence in its pursuit of developing and investing long term in high-quality infrastructure and property assets.

Plenary chair and founder John O’Rourke says Plenary is excited by the prospect of partnering with one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East in ADQ.

"This is a strong result for Plenary, ADQ and our clients. We have strong strategic alignment with ADQ, and Plenary is enthusiastic about the growth opportunities that will be made possible in addition to continuing to fund the capital needs of our core business," says O'Rourke.

"The partnership will accelerate our growth in Australia and internationally, and the Middle East co-development and Investment platform will unlock significant opportunity and value for both companies in the region. 

"ADQ enjoys a leading position in the Middle East region and increasingly on a global scale, with an impressive portfolio of infrastructure assets."

He adds that ADQ has a clear mandate to support the further development and operation of public infrastructure in partnership with Plenary.

"We are confident that this partnership will allow us to seize new opportunities and establish ourselves as a leader in our growth markets," he says.

ADQ deputy group chief executive officer Hamad Al Hammadi says this collaboration marks the group's inaugural venture in Australia, underscoring a commitment to developing partnerships that complement its investment strategy which aims to create long-term value and generate sustainable financial returns. 

"We are confident that our partnership in Plenary will unlock significant opportunities to contribute to the development of state-of-the-art infrastructure assets, boosting economic growth and social welfare in the target geographies," Al Hammadi says.

"ADQ’s existing portfolio of infrastructure assets, many of which are emerging as national champions, will serve as a catalyst to leverage the significant potential of public-private partnership projects together with Plenary, a leader in its field with a proven track record of delivering successful infrastructure projects globally."

CDPQ has been a longstanding partner of Plenary, having invested more than $500 million in a variety of Plenary projects since 2012, having acquired a stake in the corporate entity in 2016.

"Since we began our partnership with Plenary Group in 2012, the company has experienced significant growth, something we are delighted to have contributed to," says CDPQ executive vice-president and head of infrastructure, Emmanuel Jaclot.

"We are pleased to retain our investment in many of Plenary’s Australian assets and we look forward to exploring new opportunities alongside the company, in addition to retaining our 90 per cent stake in Plenary Americas."

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