PE-backed Beacon Rail snaps up rival

The rolling-stock lessor was acquired by Pamplona Capital for $450m two years ago amid a flurry of train leasing deals in Europe.

Beacon Rail Leasing has agreed to buy Ascendos Rail Leasing, a Luxembourg-based locomotive and rolling-stock leasing company.

Headquartered in London, Beacon Rail owns and manages a fleet of 190 locomotives, 944 freight wagons and 20 passenger train units. The deal will give it access to Ascendos’ portfolio of 35 locomotives and 100 freight wagons on lease in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, 35 passenger train units on lease in Germany, and 67 double-decker coaches on lease in Denmark.

The acquisition comes two years after Pamplona Capital, a UK-based private equity firm, acquired Beacon Rail from Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group for $450 million. Funded by Pamplona’s $2.7 billion third buyout fund, the transaction also saw the company order an additional 25 locomotives.

“Since closing, Beacon has been an active acquirer of assets through portfolio acquisitions, the placement of new build orders and the closing of sale/leaseback transactions with various freight and passenger operators,” the company said in a statement.

Rolling-stock businesses have been popular assets among institutional investors and fund managers in recent years.

Created in the 1990s as part of the privatisation of British Rail, a lot of UK train lessors were initially owned by banks, gradually transferring to private investors over the last decade. A raft of secondary transactions then happened during and after the financial crisis, with the likes of Porterbrook and Eversholt changing hands for hefty amounts.

Continental lessors have not been immune to the trend. In March 2014, KKR backed Austrian/German train leasing business European Locomotive Leasing, closely trailed by DIF and Paribus Capital’s investment in a €140 million rolling stock project with the German state of Schleswig-Holstein in April.

The following month, AMP Capital increased its stake in Luxembourg-headquartered Alpha Trains from 15 percent to 20.9 percent.