Cinven sells Wightlink

Investee Company – Wightlink Holdings Limited (Wightlink) (UK)

Investee Company Business Type – Ferries operator

Type of Financing – Secondary Buyout

Equity Providers – Wightlink management team

Debt Providers – RBS Mezzanine

Debt Type – Mezzanine

Debt Leader (Individual) – Bruce McLaren, Debt Ventures, Royal Bank of Scotland

Equity Amount – Undisclosed management participation

Total Deal Value – £180 million

Other Advisors – Ernst & Young, Dickson Minto

Comments – European private equity firm Cinven has sold Wightlink Holdings Limited in a secondary buyout worth £180 million. The Royal Bank of Scotland is supporting the management of Wightlink, while RBS Mezzanine, part of the bank’s structured finance division, is providing a £21 million mezzanine facility. The deal was arranged by the Debt Ventures team to buy out Cinven and other shareholders.

Having worked with the Wightlink team since 1995, Cinven recently invested over £15 million in the company to provide extra capacity with the purchase of two new catamarans and its largest vehicle ferry, the St. Clare.

The original management buy-in was conducted in 1995, led by group CEO of Wightlink, Mike Aiken and backed by Cinven and The Royal Bank of Scotland Leveraged Finance group. The business was bought from Sea Containers for an enterprise value of £107.5 million.

Wightlink operates eight car ferries and four catamarans and runs the three shortest cross-Solent ferry routes, namely Portsmouth to Fishbourne, Portsmouth to Ryde and Lymington to Yarmouth. The recent addition of the St. Clare will add the capacity for an extra 186 cars and 1200 passengers to the overall capacity of these routes.

Through the secondary buyout Mike Aiken and finance director Adam Humphrys, along with 14 managers, have significantly increased their original equity stakes in the business.