BALFOUR Beatty has sold its 50 per cent stake in Royal Blackburn Hospital to HICL Infrastructure Company Limited.

HICL, which has owned half of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme since the hospital was built in 2006, has now bought all of the shares.

In doing so it has acquired East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust’s 38-year contract with Consort Healthcare.

Trust bosses said the change would not affect patients.

The trust is five years into the PFI deal, which will see it pay back an estimated £680million in interest.

The contract was created when Royal Blackburn Hospital was built by Balfour Haden Joint Venture, a partnership between Balfour Beatty Construction and Haden Young, who are both subsidiaries of Balfour Beatty, a UK-based civil engineering company.

The £113million project was carried out on behalf of Consort HealthCare, an investment body also owned by Balfour Beatty, who became East Lancashire Hospitals’ PFI partners.

Under the terms of the contract Consort was responsible for all repairs and running the hospitals car park, which brings in around half a million pounds a year from staff and the public.

Jonathan Wood, the trust’s director of finance, said its PFI contract and repayments would not be affected by the latest move.

He said: “Nothing changes in the contract as this is purely a change to share ownership.

“The change in share ownership will make no change to users, patients, staff or management.”

A Balfour Beatty spokesman said the sale was part of a wider capital recycling programme announced by the group last year.

HICL, a Guernsey-based investment firm previously known as HSBC Infrastructure Company Limited, said it had completed the acquisition of “an incremental 50 per cent equity and loan note interest”.

It said the combined outlay of the Blackburn deal and buying a 75 per cent stake in another PFI hospital project in Sheffield was £19million, which it said “was funded by its existing cash and debt resources”.

A BBC investigation in April claimed that HICL was sending payments from its PFI agreements into an offshore ‘tax haven’.

In six months last year HICL made more than £38m profit from its 33 PFI schemes and paid £100,000 in UK tax, equating to less than half of one per cent of the profits.

HICL said it was subject to UK tax laws, and that the profits had been paid to mostly UK shareholders.

HSBC, which helped form HICL, said it set up the scheme to give people a chance to invest in PFI projects.