PE firms linked with ferry deal

ABN Amro Capital is among a number of firms considering a bid for the £150m Manx ferry company put up for sale by Sea Containers.

UK-listed transport and leisure group Sea Containers has announced that it is planning to dispose of its Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, with private equity firms expected to lead the bidding.


The company has announced the planned sale of three assets, including the ferry operator, which runs boats from Douglas, capital of the Isle of Man, to Britain, Belfast and Dublin. The company hopes to recoup around £150m from the sale as part of its effort to repay debt of $258m over the next two years.


In the year to 31 December 2002, Sea Containers reported EBITDA of $230m on revenues of $1.4bn. In its annual statement published today, company chairman said that the Isle of Man Steam Packet was a highly profitable business.


According to the Sunday Times newspaper, the Bermuda-headquartered company has appointed SG Corporate & Investment Banking to oversee the sale. Likely private equity bidders include ABN Amro Capital, which backed a management buyout at Commodore Group, a ferry operator in the Channel Islands in August last year.


Other prospective bidders include Royal Bank of Scotland, which backed a secondary deal to acquire Isle of Wight operator Wightlink Holdings from Cinven in October 2001, and JP Morgan, which acquired Red Funnel Group, a Southampton-based ferry and towage business, for £71m in late 2000.