Haulier Eddie Stobart is to become the core of a new multi-modal logistics organisation set up by the Westbury Property Fund.
Westbury is divesting itself of its property assets and merging with Stobart in a £138m deal. The resulting company will be called Stobart Group.
Westbury already has a port development site in Runcorn and a rail freight operating business and a rail terminal in Widnes. In a separate deal it is buying O’Connor, a rail connected freight handing business for some £23m.
Stobart owners Andrew Tinkler and William Stobart will become substantial shareholders and lead the management team of Eddie Stobart Ltd as chief executive and chief operating officer respectively.
The moves will create an integrated asset-backed logistics company with net assets of over £250 million.
William Stobart, managing director of Eddie Stobart (pictured), said: “We believe the future of industrial logistics is about the integration of all modes – linking roads with rail, ports and waterways and, in time, air freight. We believe the merger of our company with one that has a complementary strategy to ours, a strong balance sheet and an experienced Board, will enable us to invest and grow to benefit our customers, shareholders and staff.
“We believe the face of transport is changing as customers begin to look for more efficient and carbon-friendly solutions. We believe there is a huge potential for companies who can respond to this demand and offer a fully integrated transport solution. A key part of the future strategy of the new, enlarged business will be to invest in the new port at Runcorn and maximise the development opportunities at Widnes to create an inter-modal port facility with road, rail and deep sea and inland waterway access capable of handling significant cargo volumes, linked to the haulage network.”
Westbury is selling a property portfolio worth some £142m.
Eddie Stobart has a fleet of more than 900 trucks, each christened with its own female name. The business also has 2.6 million square feet of storage space across a network of over 27 operating sites (including 10 customer sites) across the UK and one in Belgium as well as its own rail division.
Customers of the combined group include: Tesco, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Sarah Lee. The main operating sites will be Carlisle, Daventry, Runcorn, Widnes and Warrington. At Widnes, in the North West, the combined group plans to develop over one million square feet of additional warehousing space.
Since 2004, Eddie Stobart has been run by the founder’s son, William Stobart and his school friend and business-partner, Andrew Tinkler. It is envisaged that Richard Burrell and Nigel Rawlings, the investment managers of Westbury, will become non-executive directors of the group board.
Richard Burrell said: “The board of Westbury believes very strongly that in the coming years the opportunity for forward-thinking more environmentally-sensitive logistics businesses will be considerable. I am delighted that in Eddie Stobart we have found a very talented team of people with a great record who share that view. Eddie Stobart is a first class business in its own right and together with Westbury’s developing deep sea, inland waterway, rail and storage businesses, which are considerably strengthened by the acquisition of O’Connor, and the disposal of substantially all of Westbury’s property portfolio, we believe we have the makings of a compelling multi-modal logistics business which will bring valuable benefits to customers and shareholders.”