CHAMP PE bets on NZ shipping business

The Sydney-based firm has invested in New Zealand’s Strait Shipping and Freight Lines from its current Australia-focused mid-market buyout fund.

Australian mid-market firm CHAMP Private Equity has acquired Straight Shipping and Freight Lines, the operator of Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry service in New Zealand, according to a company statement.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed but CHAMP’s investment came from CHAMP Private Equity IV. The Australia-focused mid-market buyout fund was brought to market earlier this year, with a target of A$1.5 billion ($1.17 billion; €1.04 billion) in equity, similar to its A$1.48 billion predecessor. CHAMP declined to comment on the current status of fundraising.

Strait Shipping, which runs the Bluebridge service between Wellington and Picton, has been bought from the Barker family alongside Freight Lines and the freight forwarding business, Streamline. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2017.

Both businesses were founded by Jim Barker, a transport industry giant in New Zealand, who passed away in August this year.

Sheryl Ellison, Strait Shipping’s managing director and Barker family spokesperson, said in a statement that “the sale represents the end of an era for the family and a very positive future for the businesses”.

Commenting on the acquisition, Cameron Buchanan, managing director for CHAMP, said the firm is excited about the acquisition and future potential the three companies offer.

“We’re committed to building on the strong foundations the Barker family has created and growing these businesses for the benefit of not only investors but also the wider New Zealand freight and passenger transport markets,” he said.

The firm has completed two other investments from its fourth vehicle. In March this year CHAMP invested in Melbourne-based global forex trader Pepperstone. Five months later it acquired a 50 percent interest in Containerchain, a technology solutions provider for the logistics sector.

CHAMP typically invests between A$150 million to A$750 million in equity based control investments in consumer, education, healthcare, media and transport companies.

CHAMP has offices in Sydney, Brisbane and Singapore and manages around A$3 billion ($2.2 billion; €2.1 billion) of assets.

In May this year, CHAMP Ventures, a sister fund of CHAMP Private Equity decided to wind down the firm, managing out the remaining assets in its portfolio.