Sale of Southampton-based Red Funnel ‘will not sink terminal plans’

Daily Echo- Andrew Ross - 14 March 2017

FERRY firm Red Funnel say their plans for major terminal expansions in Southampton and the Isle of Wight will not be affected by its possible sale.

It was announced this week that the cross-Solent operator, which employs 450, had been put on the market with a price tag of £250m.

Australian bank Macquarie has been instructed to sell the Southampton-based company on behalf of owners Infracapital, Prudential’s infrastructure fund.

The announcement comes as the ferry firm is about to embark on the building of a new terminal in Southampton.

Plans, approved by the city council, would see Red Funnel’s terminal move to Trafalgar Dry Dock in the Western Docks which in turn would free up land for the £450m Royal Pier development.

Red Funnel CEO Kevin George said: “Infracapital has been a supportive owner of Red Funnel for nine years, during which time there has been significant investment and improvement in the services we provide.

“We remain totally committed to offering safe and reliable services, value for money and great customer service now and into the future.”

A Red Funnel spokesman said it was “not unusual” for infrastructure investors to sell businesses after a period of years.

In 2007 Prudential bought Red Funnel from HBOS bank for around £200m – creating a huge profit for the bank and the management team, which bought the business from JP Morgan for £100m, including debts, in 2004.

JP Morgan had paid ABP £71m for Red Funnel four years earlier.

Red Funnel has ambitious growth plans.

Last year it brought a new high-speed Red Jet 6, built at East Cowes into service.

Its new Southampton terminal complex is estimated to cost £33.5m and will include a 357-space four-deck multi storey car park as well new new berths for Red Funnel’s fleet.

It had been feared this scheme might have been scuttled by Red Funnel’s failure to gain planning permission for new facilities at East Cowes.

Although it has been given permission to expand its marshalling yard, proposals for a new terminal building have been rejected by Island councillors and are likely to be the subject of a planning inquiry in the summer.

Last July Mr George said the two schemes had been ‘uncoupled’ and the Southampton terminal would progress regardless of the fate of the Island plans.

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