Haulage firm Stobart is selling a majority stake in its iconic trucking business to a group of investors headed by its founder’s youngest son.
The deal, worth about £280 million, is backed by Isle of Man-based asset manager DBAY Advisors and follows long-running talks that could have led to an outright sale of the division, known for its distinctive fleet of green and red lorries.
However, Stobart Group is retaining a 49 per cent stake in the business, as well as the rights to the Eddie Stobart name. It said the sale will allow it to wipe out most of its debts and focus on its energy, air and rail operations.
William Stobart has resigned as the group’s chief operating officer to take up his new role as chief executive of ESL, and is planning to invest £5m on a 6 per cent stake in the business, which employs about 5,000 people, runs 2,300 lorries and operates more than 50 warehouses across the UK and Europe.
He said: “It is an exciting time for us to grow this business and I am looking forward to this next stage and the opportunities that it will bring for our employees and customers.”
The deal comprises £195.6m in cash along with £44.1m in shares. The buyout team will also take on about £44.1m in debt.
Iain Ferguson, the Scots-born Unilever veteran who became chairman of Stobart Group last year, said up to £55m of the sale proceeds will be pumped into a new business targeting investments in the renewable energy sector. Stobart has an existing division that supplies wood for biomass plants.
A further £100m will be used to repay a loan from investor M&G, and the group plans to spend up to £35m on share buybacks over the coming year.
Stobart’s other interests including rail and civil engineering, along with plant hire and commercial property. The group also owns airports in Carlisle and Southend, and said the recent extension of its Essex terminal, which is served by Aer Lingus Regional and EasyJet, has given it the capacity to handle more than five million passengers a year.