Palisade, Spirit Super to buy GeelongPort

The Australian bulk port, put on the market last year by Brookfield and State Super, represented a ‘rare’ opportunity, Palisade Investment Partners’ Alastair Pollock says.

Sydney-based asset manager Palisade Investment Partners and Hobart-based superannuation fund Spirit Super have bought GeelongPort from Brookfield Asset Management and State Super for a reported A$1.2 billion ($860 million; €761 million).

Spirit Super is set to acquire a 51 percent stake in the port, which is the largest bulk port in the Australian state of Victoria, with Palisade to acquire the remaining 49 percent. Half of Palisade’s stake in the asset will be made through the firm’s open-end Diversified Infrastructure Fund, Palisade executive director Alastair Pollock told Infrastructure Investor.

“We had a relationship with our partner, Spirit Super, for some time so we were keen to look for something to work on together. Bulk liquids and regional ports [in particular] is a sector that [we] were very interested in,” Pollock said.

GeelongPort’s diversified trade profile – which includes crude oil, petroleum, woodchips, fertiliser and other project-based cargos, as well as the new Victoria-to-Tasmania passenger and freight service, the Spirit of Tasmania, which the port will host from this year – was particularly attractive from the consortium’s point of view.

“These types of bulk port opportunities don’t come along very often… It’s pretty rare in the Australian market,” Pollock added.

According to Spirit Super chief investment officer Ross Barry, the investment in GeelongPort also fit neatly with the super fund’s strategy.

“Infrastructure is a core asset class for us. We allocate around 10 percent of the fund’s assets to infrastructure and our strong preference is to invest directly in Australian core infrastructure, so GeelongPort is essentially something that is right in the frame for us. It has a lot of very strong fundamental characteristics that we like,” Barry said.

Since being put on the market by equal owners Brookfield and State Super last year, the port attracted interest from several parties, with First Sentier Investors reported to be among those interested in the asset.

In a statement, State Super chief executive John Livanas said: “While bids for the port were submitted by a broad and well-credentialed field of investors, the Spirit Super and Palisade Investment Partners consortium was a clear stand-out given its sector expertise and long-term investment horizon.”

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of this year.

Last month, Palisade partnered with First Sentier to acquire a 50 percent stake in Macarthur Wind Farm, also in Victoria. The deal is being made via Palisade’s open-end Renewable Energy Fund and First Sentier’s portfolio company Atmos Renewables.