Dealmakers: On the crest of a wave

By Ged Henderson

12 Dec 2022

Ferry from top down view

Heysham based Seatruck Ferries, the leading RoRo operator on the Irish Sea, has new owners as it sets sail on the next leg of its business voyage.

Major European ferry operator CLdN announced in late September that it had entered into an agreement to acquire all shares in Seatruck from its parent Clipper Group.

Headquartered in Luxembourg, CLdN says the deal fits in with its overall strategy of expanding current trades and developing new routes.

The parties have agreed not to disclose the transaction price and the deal is subject to regulatory approval from the Irish competition authorities, which is expected before year-end.

What is known is that the Seatruck operation will continue to run under its current brand with the existing management team led by Alistair Eagles, one of the original founders of the business, still at the helm.

The deal is the latest chapter in a story that began in in 1996 with just one chartered vessel ploughing the Irish Sea waters between Heysham and Warrenpoint.

Today Seatruck owns eight purpose-built vessels, with six operating on its routes and two chartered out. It operates freight only services on three routes between ports in England, Ireland, and Northern Ireland.

Its recent growth has been built on the fact it specialises in the movement of unaccompanied trailers across the sea, which it describes as “an efficient and climate friendly approach”.

This freight only, driver free trailer model has been a sea change for hard pressed hauliers looking to cope with driver shortages, rising fuel prices and the need to reduce emissions. Seatruck’s offer frees up drivers and their time, allowing them to cut their mileage and fuel consumption.

Across its entire route network, more than 350,000 trailers a year - ranging from tippers. tanks, flats, refrigerated and hazardous units - are handled by Seatruck, underlining its importance to the import and export of goods into Ireland, to where it transports almost a fifth of the island’s seaborne cargo volumes.

The business has also shown great resilience through the challenges caused by Brexit and the pandemic. Operating profit improved in 2021 and earnings are expected to further improve in 2022 as the joint impacts of Covid, Brexit and driver shortages are expected to accelerate growth in the unaccompanied trailer sector.

Seatruck was acquired by Denmark-based family business Clipper Group in 2002 and as a result received a €400m investment from its new owners to grow its fleet. Clipper says the sale will allow it to “devote all its financial and managerial resources” to further strengthening its global dry cargo business.

Chief executive Amrit Peter Kalsi says: “Given the continued robust performance by Seatruck, we concluded that this was the right time to divest the company.

“Following a competitive process, we are very pleased to be handing over the baton to a strong, long-term, industrial owner as CLdN.

We now look forward to focus 100 per cent on our dry cargo core business. With a much stronger balance sheet, we are well positioned to proactively pursue market opportunities.”

CLdN is one of Europe’s leading multimodal logistics providers and already operates more than 20 RoRo vessels, offering more than 130 sailings per week between the ports of Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, London, Killingholme, Liverpool, Dublin, Cork, Gothenburg, Esbjerg, Santander and Porto.

Employing close to 3,000 people, the group also owns and operates a large fleet of trailers and containers and RoRo ports in England, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Its chief executive Florent Maes says: “Seatruck Ferries is an excellent company with a great route network and a strong business model.

Seatruck will be a valuable addition to CLdN’s comprehensive route network and particularly adds to our presence in the UK and Irish markets.

We look forward to welcoming our new colleagues to the CLdN team and together develop new opportunities for the wider group.”

Meanwhile, the continuing strength of dealmaking in transport and logistics, shows  no signs of slowing, with Accrington based managed ground transport specialist CMAC Group making two acquisitions as it continues its worldwide growth journey.

The deals support CMAC’s plans to pursue further expansion across Europe and beyond over the next two years.

And it follows a period of continued growth for CMAC Group, with the business reporting a 45 per cent increase in revenue and a seven per cent rise in its headcount in 2021 - a year which saw the firm transport more than two million travellers for the first time.

In the first deal, it bought Barcelona-based Suntransfers for an undisclosed sum in a move designed to bolster its supply chain and provide immediate coverage to its existing clients across 23,000 destinations.

Suntransfers was founded in 2008 and is one of Europe’s largest airport transfer companies, offering travel solutions across more than 750 airports and travel gateways worldwide.

Employing more than 30 industry specialists, the firm manages around 400,000 bookings annually and is on track to exceed its pre-pandemic revenues by the end of this financial year.

CMAC says the “strategic move” provides both organisations with a diversification of services as well as added resilience, delivering a combined turnover of £120m-plus and a total headcount of more than 270 staff, based across eight offices.

Peter Slater, CMAC chief executive, says: “The acquisition will facilitate powerful new developments for both businesses and together we will continue building a stronger presence internationally whilst providing a wider range of market leading services focused on client service excellence.”

CMAC followed that deal with the acquisition of Portuguese-based travel firm Here & Dare, bolstering the group’s supply chain across the country.

With more than 30 years of industry experience, combined with a network of 500-plus vehicles, CMAC’s newly expanded team in Portugal is available round the clock to deliver a “seamless travel” experience for clients, their customers and their staff.

Peter says: “We firmly believe that employing experienced people is the key to successfully managing complex and demanding transportation and accommodation requirements, such as mass disruption. This cannot be fulfilled solely with a tech-only solution.

“By enhancing our presence in key markets, we can further our commitment to being the partner of choice for managed ground transport and accommodation across the globe.”

Enjoyed this? Read more from Ged Henderson

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