Wightlink has been sold
It has been announced this morning that Isle of Wight ferry company, Wightlink, has been sold.
According to Wightlink’s latest press release:
“Wightlink Ferries has a new owner. Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Partners LP (BBIP) has purchased the company from Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund (MEIF) for an undisclosed sum.
Chief Executive Russell Kew, Chief Operating Officer John Burrows, and their management team remain in charge of the company. Similarly, there will be no changes to staffing, pricing, routes or schedules as a result of the change of ownership."
Nicholas Finney of the Better Ferry Campaign has said:
“The critical issues here for Islanders are the price paid, the conditions attached and the level of debt and debt repayments. Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Partners LLP has no proven track record of investment in Transport operations nor specifically Ferries. This means continued reliance on existing Wightlink management.
Although Wightlink have said that there will be no changes to staffing, pricing routes and schedules, it is clear that much will depend on actual financial performance.
Until the Island can ascertain what BBIP plans are and what their expectations of financial performance are, we need to be concerned.
Fortunately, the imminent establishment of the new Transport Infrastructure taskforce will allow the whole issue of the ownership and long term investment of the Private sector transport operators to be fully examined against the needs of the Island.
In the meantime, we need to question the new owners about their long term commitment to improvements in the service.
The Better Ferry Campaign will seek further detailed information before commenting further."
The Island’s MP Andrew Turner has said:
“This is quite concerning news as BBIP has no track record of operating public transport services, particularly ferries. We need to know more about the new debt levels and gearing of Wightlink, which has not yet been mentioned. If they are not changing the structure, prices or schedules it is hard to see how the Island will benefit in either the short or long term.
“The investment strategy for BBIP talks about acquiring infrastructure companies providing essential services, with high barriers to entry, inflation-linked cash-flows and attractive operating margins. That could be seen as exploiting monopolies!
“I will be seeking an early meeting with the new owners to discuss their plans, and the new infrastructure taskforce which will be set up over the next few months will doubtless also be talking to them in depth.”