Return to search

BBIP buys UK ferry operator

Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Partners has acquired Isle of Wight ferry service, Wightlink, from Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund.

Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Partners (BBIP), the London-based fund manager, has acquired Wightlink Ferries from Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund (MEIF) for an undisclosed sum.

MEIF acquired Wightlink for £230 million (€309 million; $354 million) in June 2005. Ten years prior to that, the firm had been the subject of a £108 million management buyout backed by private equity firm Cinven and Royal Bank of Scotland.

Wightlink provides a ferry link between the Isle of Wight and the southern coast of England, carrying more than 4.8 million passengers per year on its 40-minute journeys across the Solent. The firm operates three routes and undertakes 48,000 crossings annually.

“Wightlink is a strong and stable company with the opportunity to grow and develop in the years to come,” said BBIP partner Stephen Lowry in a statement. “We are delighted to be the new owners of the largest cross-Solent ferry operator and are committed to investing in the business, and supporting the management team’s focus on safety and improving customer service.”

The statement said that chief executive Russell Kew, chief operating officer John Burrows and the management team would remain in charge and that “there will be no changes to staffing, pricing, routes or schedules” as a result of the ownership change.

The statement also noted that, under MEIF’s ownership, Wightlink had invested £70 million in five new ships and improved facilities and that the company had reached “peak levels of reliability and punctuality”.

BBIP was formed in 2011 and completed its first investment in March 2013. It targets operational assets in the transport, energy and utilities sectors across the UK, Europe and North America. The firm states that it operates independently of its sponsor Balfour Beatty, the UK-based developer.

The firm’s current portfolio comprises UPPCO, a regulated US electric utility, and McEwan Power, a portfolio of 10 UK-based solar parks with a total generating capacity of 71 megawatts.

Last February, it was reported that BBIP had raised $508 million of the $1 billion it was aiming to raise for its debut fund.