Aug. 24, 2006 - Foreign investment in America's toll roads is something truckers and the general public have been concerned about since hearing about the Indiana Toll Road being leased to a Spanish-Australian consortium.
Half of that consortium, Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Sydney - a publicly held company - is hoping to change its image and please its investors at the same time.
In a bold announcement Thursday from the land down under, MIG's chief executive officer, Steven Allen, said the company will sell half of its interest in four U.S. toll roads to a privately held company, Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, based in New York.
"We saw from Indiana that the foreign ownership thing is becoming a bigger and bigger issue," Allen told theSydney Morning Herald.
Allen said MIG plans to sell $762 million in shares from the Indiana Toll Road, Chicago Skyway, Dulles Greenway in Virginia and the South Bay Expressway in San Diego to the private Macquarie subsidiary in New York.
The subsidiary would be a U.S. company, Allen said.
The sale of shares to a privately held partnership boosted Macquarie Infrastructure Group shares from $2.90 to $3.02 after the announcement, The Australian reported, something its shareholders were demanding.
Macquarie on a long-term basis has been outperforming the market, according to Allen in The Australian, but in the short-term, he admitted the company has underperformed.
The Australian Macquarie and the New York-based Macquarie will seek new toll-road investments in the U.S., according to Allen in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The announcement of the sale of shares comes less than two months after MIG and Madrid-based Cintra inked a long-term lease deal with the state of Indiana for control of tolls and operations of the Indiana Toll Road.
Macquarie and Cintra under the name ITR Concession Co. and Statewide Mobility Partners paid Indiana $3.85 billion for the right to collect tolls on the 157-mile road for 75 years.
Land Line contacted the office of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to discuss provisions of the lease that allow Macquarie to make its transition.
"This is an internal Macquarie transaction, and there is no change to the shareholders of the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. or Statewide Mobility Partners," a governor's office spokesman told "Land Line Now."
One of the first matters of business ITR Concession Co. enacted was to barricade the turn-around spots in the median between the eastbound and westbound lanes.
As the Indiana State Police reacted to the placement of the sand-filled barrels, so have local fire departments.
Fire chiefs are concerned about response times in emergencies.
Liberty Township Fire Chief Bill Branham told the Northwest Indiana Times that he has had no contact with ITR Concession Co. since the barricades went up.
"Time is of the essence if someone is in a traffic accident with a car on fire or something like that," Branham said.
By David Tanner, staff writer