French water company Saur Group, which sought out new partners, has entered into talks with Swedish investment firm EQT.

EQT said its €4bn third infrastructure fund has entered exclusive negotiations to buy Holding d’Infrastructures des Métiers de l’Environnement (HIME), the holding company of Saur Group from its current shareholders including BNP Paribas and Groupe BPCE.

BNP Paribas will invest as minority shareholder alongside EQT Infrastructure III in Saur.

No financial details were disclosed. The transaction, subject to approvals, could be finalised by the end of 2018, EQT said.

The Swedish investment manager said the investment is part of its overall growth strategy and geographical expansion into the French market

Matthias Fackler, a partner at EQT Partners and an investment advisor to EQT Infrastructure, said: “EQT has followed Saur for many years, it is a well-positioned company in an attractive market with significant development potential. We aim to unlock this by working together with Saur’s dedicated management and employees leveraging on the company’s proven agility, operational network and proximity to customers.

”EQT’s industrial network will provide complementary experiences in water infrastructure management, digitalization and sustainable development.”

Lennart Blecher, a deputy managing partner at EQT and head of EQT real assets business, said: “EQT strongly believes that we will be able to add value thanks to the deep sector and operational experience among EQT’s industrial advisors. The investment will also be an important next step for EQT’s overall expansion into France, following a number of high-profile real estate acquisitions.

“We see it as a very interesting market with vast investment opportunities relevant for EQT’s approach of active and engaged ownership.”

Founded in 1933, Saur serves around 7,000 French local authorities under long-term contracts. It also has a presence in countries like Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Spain, and Poland.

In April this year, Saur decided to launch the search for one or more stable partners to support the development of the company.

Louis-Roch Burgard, an executive chairman of Saur, said: “This shareholding evolution is a major step which will enable us to reinforce our development perspectives in line with our Initiative 2022 ambitions. We are convinced that the combination of EQT’s expertise in infrastructure and our operator’s experience will be a key lever to contribute to the group’s growth, both in France and abroad, and will serve the interest of all our employees.

”This evolution perfectly meets the group’s willingness to carry on with their commitment to their clients, be they local authorities or consumers, to offer them an innovative local service part of a social responsibility approach.”