The two Canadian pension giants that own the high-speed railway connecting London to the Channel Tunnel have appointed a US investment bank to explore a sale of the line.
The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Borealis have brought in Bank of America Merrill Lynch to handle a £3.6bn potential sale of the 109km HS1 line that runs from the capital to Folkestone in Kent, the Sunday Times reported.
In December, the funds confirmed they were exploring strategic options after receiving "a number of investment enquiries" about a sale of the only high-speed line currently operating in the UK.
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Borealis and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan snapped up a 30-year concession for HS1 in 2010 from then-transport secretary Philip Hammond for £2.1bn to operate and manage the HS1 network. The railway line opened in 2007 and was transferred to government ownership in 2009.
Together, the pension funds manage the retirement savings of thousands of Ontario-based police, teachers, firefighters and council workers.
Both Eurostar and high-speed Southern services operate on the line, which includes four international stations along its route: St Pancras, Stratford, Ebbsfleet and Ashford.
HS1 has paid out robust dividends in the last couple of years, forking out £55m in 2015 and £200m in 2014, when it swung into a loss of £113.2m.
Borealis and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan also own stakes in London City airport, as part of the consortium that bid in the £2bn takeover in February.
The UK’s second high-speed rail line, HS2, is planned to link London with cities including Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester. The first phase of the £56bn railway is due to open in December 2026.