InfraRed closing in on AUD 300m Curtin Uni contract

20 November 2018 - 12:00 am UTC

The race for Curtin University’s Stage One expansion is in the final lap, with InfraRed Capital Partnersthe favourite to take out the AUD 200-300m (USD 146m – 219m) university expansion project, Inframation understands.

The UK-headquartered infrastructure fund is currently in negotiations with project advisors, which includes financial advisors Paxon Group, CBRE and lawyers Herbert Smith Freehills, with a second, as yet unknown, bidder waiting in the wings that has not yet been formally rejected, a source familiar with the matter told Inframation.

The winner is expected to be revealed in early 2019, a spokesperson for Western Australia’s Curtin University has confirmed – marking almost three years since procurement of the university expansion kicked off in April 2016 and almost two years behind the original delivery timetable, which predicted contract award in mid-2017.

Financial close is now expected to occur concurrently with the contract award.

It is understood final bids were lodged in November 2017. The two groups ushered into the final round are vying for the contract to fund, design and develop the student precinct which encompasses 2,000 beds, R&D facilities, a transport interchange for up to 12,500 commuters, retail and commercial space. 

The new development will be on the university’s existing Bentley campus located 6km west of the Perth city centre.

There is also scope for the operator of the new development to lease the majority (up to 875 beds) of the University’s 1,175 on-campus beds in conjunction with the new facilities.

Curtin’s existing accommodation operates at 100% occupancy during semester, with demand currently oversubscribed, an information memorandum on the project indicates.

InfraRed was not available for comment but the investor has plenty of form in the student accommodation sector.

The large size of the project is one of the primary reasons for the delay in awarding the contract, according to the Curtin University spokesperson.

“It is a huge, complex project with lots of stakeholders involved.” Construction was originally scheduled to start in early 2018 and be finished by 2020, but now looks likely to start in mid-2019.

The private sector is being tapped to fund a big chunk of the precinct as well as develop and operate the project, with the University contributing AUD 85m towards Greater Curtin Stage One, which forms the first phase of its major expansion plans.

The private sector will fund the remainder of the around AUD 300m for stage one. As well as operating the precinct, it will also have full control over the management of the 2,000 students beds, Inframationunderstands.