Plan Campus: Building world-class universities


As France creates 12 super universities to compete with the world’s best, Societe Generale CIB has provided more finance than any other bank.

When the international rankings of universities are published, they are invariably led by the big US and UK academic powerhouses. Bringing many colleges together onto the same campus, they have the advantage of scale. But by building 12 super universities across the country, the French Ministry of Education aims to change this.

‘Plan Campus’ is an ambitious national programme that is investing €5bn to transform university education and research. Approximately 20 public-private partnerships (PPPs) are making this possible, with the private sector financing, building, maintaining and operating the new campuses.

So far, Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking (SG CIB) has arranged loans for six of the 17 PPPs signed, raising approximately €380m, more than any other bank. It has financed PPPs for Grenoble, Lille, Metz, Nancy and Condorcet universities, as well as École Centrale Supélec.

Only a few banks have the qualities to lead these financings. The lead bank must commit to lend for 25-30 years, have a keen understanding of the projects’ risks and strong relationships with the leading French contractors who are the equity partners.

The EUR165m Condorcet University PPP, signed in early 2016, is the largest financing to date. Backed by 10 well-established universities and research centres, Condorcet will be a 85,000m² of educational facilities based at Aubervilliers, north of Paris, and will host up to 13,000 people – university lecturers and researchers, students, administrative and technical staff. SG CIB was sole structuring bank, mandated lead arranger, hedge provider and agent. VINCI, the main contractor, will deliver the buildings by mid-2019, after which ENGIE will operate and maintain them for 26 years.

“Condorcet is not only the largest deal of the Plan Campus so far but also the sixth operation arranged by SG CIB in the context of this Plan, illustrating our commitment alongside key clients to finance real-economy and positive-impact projects”, says Laurent Chabot, Co-Head Infrastructure Finance Paris.

“Societe Generale’s support since the very early stages of the Condorcet project has been instrumental for the competitiveness of our bid”. Bruno Buisson, Head of PPP at VINCI Construction France.

Furthermore, Adil Tber, Project Manager at VINCI Construction France adds: “Societe Generale structuring skills have made it possible to set up the financing of this project within a limited time frame.”

All the PPPs to date have been completed on time. Grenoble University’s facilities, for example, were finished in July 2015, ahead of the September 2015 academic year. To ensure value for money, the Ministry of Higher Education has negotiated a €1.3bn facility with the European Investment Bank, which will refinance most of the projects after completion.

In years to come, France’s new universities are likely to increase the competition at the top of the international university league tables.