Private equity fund EQT Infrastructure II intends to sell Unilode Aviation Solutions, sources close to the case confirmed to CargoForwarder Global. EQT purchased the ULD manager from the Australian supply chain service provider, Brambles, in 2016, for US$ 130 million. Now the EQT fund’s investors are eager to get an above-average return on their money.
It is quite common for private equity houses to restructure their portfolio every 5 or 6 years by divesting companies whose sale promises a healthy return on investment. Whether this financial
aspect applies to Unilode remains to be seen. The Zurich-based ULD manager fully owns the loading equipment of its partner airlines, pools them according to daily transport demand, and is
responsible for maintaining and repairing the assets to keep the containers and pallets in proper shape:
a task performed by 28 repair shops spread all around the world. However, these technical stations partially ran out of work lately because many airlines have significantly reduced their passenger business due to the lack of demand from travelers in Covid-19 times. Less flights means less demand for loading devices leading to an (expensive) surplus of staff at the 28 maintenance centers mentioned above.
Sales process has started
Unilode has not yet communicated how many of the staff working in the repair business have lost their jobs. Supposedly, it was quite a few.
From EQT's point of view - this can be assumed - the ULD manager Unilode is not a player whose profits will go through the roof in the near future, making it a must for the fund to hold on to it.
Having said this, the sales process seems to be gaining speed. Meanwhile, EQS assigned the mandate of sell-side advisor to Deutsche Bank with their specialists having begun to distribute teasers for the deal.
Unilode, which operates as many as 140,000 ULDs worldwide, 2/3rds of which are utilized to transport air freight, and the other 33% passenger baggage, annually generates around US$25 million EBITDA, sources hold.
Despite the current challenges Unilode is facing, the prospects for its sale do look bright, market experts hold. They refer to infrastructure funds that are interested in adding companies that manage loading equipment to their portfolio. Although it is considered to be a niche sector, thus a small add on to their existing portfolio, it is a business offering interesting growth perspectives.
ACL is sold
Only a month ago, Greenville, South Carolina-based ULD lessor ACL Airshop was acquired by Alinda Capital Partners, an infrastructure fund manager. ACL Airshop maintains and leases more than 50,000 Unit Load Devices, mainly air freight containers but also air pallets. “Alinda is among the world’s most successful investors in infrastructure, including transportation and logistics,” said Steve Townes, President and Chief Executive Officer of ACL Airshop.
“ACL Airshop is a uniquely positioned business and is headed by an exceptional management team,” stated Alinda Chairman Chris Beale on the occasion of the acquisition.
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