Unifeeder Sale Could Hasten Short-Sea Consolidation

Unifeeder Sale Could Hasten Short-Sea Consolidation

The acquisition of Unifeeder by Nordic Capital announced today is likely to hasten consolidation of the North Sea and Baltic markets.

The Swedish-based private equity fund said it views Unifeeder, Europe’s biggest short-sea carrier, as “an attractive platform for further and accelerated organic and acquisitive growth” in the pan-European shipping market.

“There is excellent expansion potential within both the feeder and short-sea business in current and new geographies.”

Nordic Capital is said to have paid around 400 million euros ($520 million) for Unifeeder, double what Montagu Private Equity is thought to have invested when it backed a management buyout from the Danish carrier’s founders in 2007.

Unifeeder has expanded its network in recent years, acquiring IMCL, the leading feeder line in Poland and the Baltic states, in 2010, and buying Feederlink from Irish Continental Group in 2012. It also launched services between Spain, Algeria and Tunisia in 2012. 

The sale of Unifeeder is the biggest deal in the European shor- sea shipping market since DFDS, the Danish trucking and logistics group, bought Norfolkline from A.P. Moller-Maersk in a $425 million transaction in 2010 that left the Maersk Line parent with a 31.4 percent stake in DFDS.

Both deals are set to be overtaken shortly by the forthcoming sale of Scandlines, the German ferry operator, by 3i, a U.K. equity fund, and Germany’s Allianz Capital, which is expected to fetch up to $1.8 billion.

Nordic Capital, which anticipates raising $4 billion in its latest fund by the summer, is being tipped as a potential bidder for Scandlines as well.

Scandlines is focusing on the Baltic and Scandinavian passenger market following the sale of its freight business and several vessels to Swedish carriers Stena Line and Sweden Orient Line.

Contact Bruce Barnard at brucebarnard47@hotmail.com