Ardian’s von der Schulenburg: Regs driving opportunities in waste management

3i Infrastructure and its co-investors – funds managed by DWS and 3i Investments – intend to sell their stakes in waste management platform Attero to Ardian.

Ardian expects increased regulation around waste management to boost Attero’s growth and energy recovery capabilities, Daniel von der Schulenburg, senior managing director and head of infrastructure for Germany, Benelux and Northern Europe, told PE Hub Europe.

Based in Wilp in the Netherlands, Attero is an independent European waste management and circular economy platform. Paris-headquartered Ardian signed an agreement in late July to acquire 100 percent of Attero from 3i Infrastructure and its co-investors – funds managed by DWS and 3i Investments. The deal has an enterprise value of around €1.5 billion, according to sources close to the matter.

“There are also lots of new developments in the sector of waste management that lead to growth opportunities,” said von der Schulenburg. “This is driven by EU or national regulations, alongside a general move towards more sustainable waste management.”

The EU Landfill Directive sets out operational requirements for landfill sites with the aim to protect human health and the environment. One of its key objectives is to limit the share of municipal waste landfilled to 10 percent by 2035. “Today, 25 percent of our waste ends up in landfill,” said von der Schulenburg. “There’s a lot of waste that still needs to find better treatment.”

For Ardian, these directives open an opportunity to invest more in recycling activities and energy recovery from waste, according to von der Schulenburg. The activities include generation of biogas from organic waste and technologies to make any waste processes more CO2 neutral, such as carbon capture storage, which sits at the “intersection of energy transition and more sustainable use of waste”, von der Schulenburg added.

At present, Attero processes 3.6mt of waste from municipalities and businesses, generating more than 800 GWh of renewable electricity, equivalent to powering 300,000 homes, as well as 22m m3 of green gas, according to Ardian.

Infra opportunity

Von der Schulenburg described waste management as an attractive sector for infrastructure investors to invest in. “Often the revenue of assets, especially in waste to energy plants, can be highly contracted,” he said. “That gives you a high visibility on your earnings and they can also be indexed to inflation.”

Ardian looks for transactions that have the essential infrastructure characteristics, which in the current macroeconomic environment are especially appealing: protected revenues, inflation correlation and high barriers of entry, von der Schulenburg said. “But we like to do that through an active industrial approach – we can still grow those companies further,” he added.

Developing new sites for Attero will be mainly done via organic growth. Within its existing sites, Attero handles a variety of waste, namely vegetable, garden and fruit. Those waste streams could be upgraded to generate biogas. “The same is true when it comes to plastic sorting and recycling – Attero already has all these various waste streams,” said von der Schulenburg. “It’s an opportunity to look for treatment technologies to treat them in a better way.”

While the focus initially is to expand Attero within the Netherlands, von der Schulenburg doesn’t exclude the possibility to cross some borders. “We are in the early stages of considering international growth, but we might consider neighbouring countries – such as Belgium or Germany – where the biogas markets could be quite attractive.”