Examples taken from Meridiam Public Private Partnerships demonstrate the company’s acknowledgement of the fact that there are multiple ways to create value, both in economic and social terms. Meridiam Clubs are leveraging experience gained and achievements made at individual SPV level for the benefit of the entire portfolio.
Meridiam is a company that prides itself on developing projects which produce long-term social value for communities, as well as economic and financial benefits for project grantors and investors. This key strategic aim is manifest in a tangible, hands-on approach to asset management and active pursuit of ways to maximise project value; lately with the support of the Meridiam Clubs.
These are groups of SPVs’ representatives and Meridiam Asset Management people working on common topics which meet regularly to discuss and exchange knowledge and experience on a wide variety of subjects. Meridiam Clubs have been established for the main sectors in which the company operates: in the roads (tunnels) market, in airports, rail and social infrastructure.
The value of the Clubs has grown considerably as Meridiam has expanded its presence in these different infrastructure markets. In rail, for instance, Meridiam is now an equity investor and asset manager in six Public Private Partnerships, including two high speed rail lines in France and light rail tram projects in Italy, the UK, the US and Canada.
In similar fashion, Meridiam is now a partner in five major airport projects, including redevelopment of LaGuardia Terminal B in New York (the first PPP in US airports). The Meridiam Airport Club is the latest to be convened (see box 1).
The first Club to be launched by Meridiam in 2017 was the Tunnel Club, which consists predominantly of project managers and directors from roads PPPs containing at least one major tunnel.
Meridiam’s roads projects cover around 1000km of principal motorways and highways in 12 different countries. At least seven of these PPPs contain significant tunnels. The L2 project in Marseille features several cut and cover tunnels. The A5 Ostregion PPP in Austria has four tunnels.
Safe operation of tunnels is a critical issue (particularly in regard to fire hazards), managed increasingly with high-tech monitoring and communications systems. Technological advances and safety are typical of issues discussed by the Tunnel Club.
“Essentially, what the Clubs are doing is leveraging the expertise in our portfolio; cross-fertilising knowledge and experience to create further value, both financial and non-financial,” says Meridiam’s Asset Management Hub Director, Thomas Paineau.
A growing list of projects – Meridiam is a partner in over 70 active PPPs – has brought a “critical mass” for furthering the company’s overall knowledge in asset management, Thomas says.
This is borne out by numerous specific examples. The Social Infrastructure Club is one that contains representation from a variety of projects, including several hospitals, a student accommodation development and a courthouse building in California.
“But they still share common issues,” Thomas says.
“The majority of the time and input to long-term PPP projects, which typically last 20 to 25 years, comes from operation and maintenance, so even small improvements in O&M practices contribute a lot of additional value.”
For example, substantial work is being done to optimise the lifecycle of specific elements of building fabric and M&E (mechanical and electrical) parts, with software tools and preventative maintenance.
The Chair of the Social Infrastructure Club is Christian Stanbury, Chief Executive of ULiving@Hertfordshire, which is the project company responsible for the University of Hertfordshire’s student accommodation PPP in England.
“The issues and discussions brought up within the Club are fascinating and certainly help,” he says.
“We have a good mix of projects in the Social Infrastructure Club, but we find some parallel challenges, with national or local government institutions as clients and long lists of interested stakeholders. Critically, we are often talking about how best to serve the needs of end-users, be it doctors on hospital wards, judges at a courthouse or student residents.”
How projects are operated can have a huge impact on local communities, Christian adds. Discussions have included how to prevent projects experiencing the impacts of O&M contractors going bust – putting controls and measures in place, such as regular audits of suppliers’ financial viability and checks to ensure subcontractors are getting paid promptly.
“The way O&M contracts are procured is really important,” Christian says.
“They should be set up to incentivise and reward contractors for good performance, in terms of how they serve end-users and local communities; aligned to Meridiam's ESG/SDG values via service level agreements.”
The discussions appear to be making a positive difference at all levels. Something as detailed as regular battery replacement to ensure door card readers are always working can make a big difference to efficiency and customer experience. At a higher level, project lessons are aiding development of social infrastructure in developing countries.
In the West African Ivory Coast, Meridiam is working with the Ivorian government to develop the region’s first major social infrastructure PPP. The proposed project will reconstruct and modernise the Treichville University Hospital, while also catalysing important reforms to the Ivorian health sector.
Meridiam’s project manager for the Treichville University Hospital, Ahoua Coulibaly, is a member of the Social Infrastructure Club.