One, possibly two of the major financiers of the huge $4.8 billion BrisConnections road and tunnel infrastructure project in Brisbane have been caught up in the worst financial crisis to strike Europe for decades.

One of the banks, the Dublin-based Depfa, is at the centre of the Germany’s financial problems: the Government this morning revealed a 50 billion euro bailout, the second in a week for Depfa’s Munich-based parent, Hypo Real Estate.

BrisConnections listed earlier this year in a major flop. Its $1 linked securities plunged sharply amid the growing doubts about infrastructure project. Macquarie Group helped float it and there was a substantial shortfall from retail investors. The securities were untraded at 3.8 cents this morning.

The BrisConnections consortium includes Leighton’s Thiess and John Holland subsidiaries and Macquarie.

The project will include Australia’s longest road tunnel and a fly-over and it involved bank finance for $3.055 billion, with the banks including (according to Reuters) Allied Irish Bank, the ANZ, BNP Paribas, BOS International Australia, Depfa Bank, DZ Bank, KBC Bank, Societe Generale, UOB Asia and UniCredit.

BrisConnections’ product disclosure statement named the major financiers as: Allied Irish Banks plc, (Sydney Branch), ANZ, Bayerische Hypo-und Vereinsbank AG (HVB, part of UniCredit), BNP PARIBAS, BOS International (Australia), DEPFA BANK PLC, DZ BANK AG Deutsche Zentral Genossenschaftsbank, Hong Kong Branch, KBC Finance Ireland, Societe Generale Australia Branch and United Overseas Bank Limited Sydney.

There was no breakdown of the funding from each of the banks, how much they kept and then sold on to other investors. There’s no word in the documents if all the money has been raised and paid into the project’s accounts.

Besides Depfa and its parent, Hypo Real Estate of Munich, HVB of Munich is the second lender to the project with questions being asked about it. It’s Germany’s second largest retail lender and a subsidiary of Italy’s second largest bank, UniCredit, which was forced to reveal plans this morning to raise over 6 billions in fresh capital after a board meeting in Italy on Sunday afternoon.

Depfa specialised in lending to public sector projects and BrisConnection’s project would have been a typical home for its money. It has also issued an estimated 30 billion euros of covered bonds, a popular way of raising money in Europe. The bonds give the investors limited recourse to the balance sheet of the issuer if there’s money owning. Depfa is the issuer of these billions of bonds and obviously can’t meet any of its claims if it isn’t bailed out.

Peter Fray

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