Belgium 'set for PPP boom'

Belgium is set to become a European hotspot for PPP investment over the coming years, as sources point to a growing number of projects coming to market.

According to sources in the region, the fact that the Belgian authorities have now redrafted their PPP rules to ensure projects remain off balance sheet according to the Eurostat rules means that an existing pipeline of deals has now been unlocked.

“The new guidance from Eurostat has unlocked that part of the pipeline that has been around for many years,” one advisor told Partnerships Bulletin. “That is the result of more comfort that the projects can achieve the off-balance sheet treatment.”

Among projects due to come to market are the Flemish schools programme, valued at around €550m, plus public transport schemes across the country covering trams and depot schemes.

However, advisors warned that decisions on deals not in the market could get bogged down in politics, with municipal elections this year and regional elections in 2019.

“[The Walloon government] is now saying that a significant proportion of its pipeline will be delivered as PPPs,” pointed out one advisor. “We will have to wait and see how that crystallises after the elections.”

Another source warned that investors have often found Belgium difficult to do business with because of continued tinkering of the model, which “makes it more expensive from an investor point of view”, although there is renewed hope that the model will now settle down in the wake of last year’s Eurostat guidance.