Macquarie, CPE to sell off StraitNZ

The logistics company's demonstrated resilience during covid indicates StraitNZ will fare well in the current market, Macquarie Capital executives said.

Macquarie Group and Sydney-based CPE Capital are seeking a buyer for New Zealand shipping and transport business StraitNZ.

Infrastructure Investor can confirm Macquarie Capital has commenced proceedings for selling off StraitNZ on behalf of the business’s majority shareholder CPE, with information about the asset being shared with a targeted list of potential buyers on Monday.

In operation since 1992 and acquired by CPE (formerly CHAMP Private Equity) in 2017, StraitNZ owns and operates freight and passenger ferry services connecting New Zealand’s North and South Islands across Cook Strait. When Macquarie Group acquired a minority stake in the business in mid-2018, the value of StraitNZ was reported to be NZ$400 million ($282.82 million; €237.19 million).

It is understood the company delivered approximately NZ$175 million in revenue in the last 12 months, with an EBITDA of approximately NZ$45 million over the same period. One of two companies providing connecting freight and passenger services across the Cook Strait, its freight business has a market share of 56 percent while its passenger business has a market share of 31 percent.

Macquarie Capital executive director Jeremy Tasker told Infrastructure Investor: “We’ve now reached the point where the business is performing well, having benefited from the implementation of a more institutional structure and senior management team, so we feel it’s the right time for a new owner to take the business forward.”

According to Macquarie Capital private capital markets global head Joanne Spillane, the company’s demonstrated resilience in the face of the pandemic means it would fare well in a market where investors were more attuned to the resiliency of infrastructure assets in general.

“There’s a heightened awareness of what resilience really means for infrastructure assets coming out of covid-19, and the nature of this particular asset in terms of its role on both freight and on passenger traffic has proven to be a very resilient business model,” Spillane said.

“We think that it’s a good time for investors to be looking at an asset of this nature and in this region. Both Australia and New Zealand, our economies have performed well through covid; both economies have demonstrated strong leadership from government relative to many other OECD regions.

“There’s a real appetite to step up and deploy capital and I think we’ve all learnt how to conduct virtual diligence and actually transact in a covid-impacted environment.”

In December, EQT paid €1 billion to acquire Molslijnen, the largest passenger ferry operator in Denmark.