Stonepeak’s core strategy takes lead in A$1.1bn GeelongPort deal

The GP partnered with Spirit Super, after the latter’s failed bid to acquire the Australian bulk port alongside Palisade Investment Partners.

Stonepeak has partnered with Tasmanian superannuation fund Spirit Super to acquire Australia’s GeelongPort from Brookfield Asset Management and State Super for a reported A$1.1 billion ($734 million; €711 million).

The deal will see Stonepeak’s core infrastructure strategy claim a 70 percent stake in the state of Victoria’s second largest port, with Spirit Super to acquire a 30 percent stake.

“As a high-quality landlord port with operations that are critical to Australia’s economy, GeelongPort is a natural fit for Stonepeak’s core infrastructure strategy,” said Stonepeak senior managing director Darren Keogh. “It is a highly contracted entity with strong barriers to entry and stable and predictable demand drivers, which we believe are even more compelling when coupled with the port’s meaningful opportunities for long-term growth through additional development to meet future import-export demand in the region.”

Spirit Super initially sought to acquire GeelongPort alongside Sydney-based asset manager Palisade Investment Partners in a A$1.2 billion deal which fell through earlier this year, following a prolonged review by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The initial deal, announced in January, would have seen the superfund own a 51 percent stake in the port, with Palisade acquiring the remaining 49 percent. The transaction hit the rocks in April when the ACCC issued preliminary competition concerns regarding the acquisition, noting Palisade’s 100 percent interest in another bulk port in Victoria, the Port of Portland, could potentially result in a significant lessening of competition between ports.

In August, Palisade and Spirit Super abandoned their bid to acquire the port, with the commission announcing the consortium had withdrawn its request for merger clearance after the ACCC informed the consortium that it would require more time to investigate.

Managing over A$7 billion of trade across Victoria, GeelongPort has a diversified trade profile, including 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.

The port attracted interest from several parties when it was put on the market last year, with First Sentier Investors, now known as Igneo Infrastructure Partners, reported by the Australian Financial Review last December to be among those interested in the asset.