Carlyle a bidder for Virginia port

The Carlyle Group responded to a mandate to run the Port of Virginia. Old Dominion issued a request for proposals after APM Terminals made an unsolicited bid.

A June call for a would-be private partner fit to run the Port of Virginia has generated sufficient interest, including a proposal from The Carlyle Group, Infrastructure Investor has learned.

Bidding opened after Netherlands-based APM Terminals (APMT) in April offered to take control of the port. The unsolicited APM tender was forwarded to the Virginia Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships (OTP3). The OTP3 in turn initiated a competitive process, publishing a request for proposals (RFP), due Sunday, August 12.

Virginia secretary of transportation Sean Connaughton refused to disclose who responded to the RFP, but Infrastructure Investor was able to confirm a second, unidentified private company submitted a bid.

In addition, Virginia Port Authority (VPA) operating unit Virginia International Terminals (VIT) made a proposal, he said.

Carlyle in Washington, D.C., declined to comment. The name of the second “alternative” proposer could not be ascertained.

“We do not plan to disclose publicly [their] identity [until after a VPA meeting on August 22],” Connaughton wrote in an e-mail.

The Carlyle bid marked the second time the private equity firm has put forward a proposal to run the port.

In 2009 Carlyle, along with marine terminal operator Carrix, bid to operate the Port of Virginia after a March unsolicited proposal from CenterPoint spurred a competitive process.

CenterPoint had offered a lump $500 million sum to operate the port under a 60-year lease. Carlyle priced its own 60-year concession between $500 million and $700 million.

Seattle-based Carrix, a Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners (GSIP) portfolio company, did not want a concession agreement, and campaigned instead for a 30-year contract to advise VIP.

But the VPA determined leasing control was “not in the best interest of the port or the commonwealth,” and suspended bidding.

APM Terminals, the port operating arm of conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk Group, has valued a long-term concession to be worth $3 billion to $4 billion.

The company is owner of the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, and is willing to turn ownership of it to Virginia as part of its proposal.

Portsmouth, along with Norfolk International Terminal, the Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port, comprise the Port of Virginia.