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Friday, 19 September 2014

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51% stake in Carlisle's Eddie Stobart firm to be sold

Stobart Group is selling a controlling 51 per cent stake in the iconic Cumbrian road haulage business Eddie Stobart.

DBAY Advisors, a private-equity investor based in the Isle of Man, is acquiring the stake for £280.8m, of which £195.6m is cash.

William Stobart will leave the board of Stobart Group to become chief executive of the spun-off business, Eddie Stobart Logistics.

The deal will allow stockmarket-listed Stobart Group to pay off £100m of debt, invest £55m in its growing biomass division and buy back £35m worth of shares.

It will retain ownership of Eddie Stobart’s depots and warehousing, and the Eddie Stobart brand name.

Its other assets, including Carlisle Airport, are unaffected by the deal.

Announcing the move today, Stobart Group said: “The directors consider that Eddie Stobart Logistics has reached a point in its development where the expertise and impetus is required in order to continue its growth and their view is that the proposed transaction is the best way of achieving this.”

It added that the risk profile associated with growth plans for the haulage business would be “better managed in an unlisted business” rather than a stockmarket-listed company.

Unlisted companies can take decisions without pressure from institutional investors demanding short-term returns.

There had been rumours last year that Stobart Group chief executive Andrew Tinkler was planning to take the whole group private following a supposed clash with its largest institutional investor, Invesco Perpetual.

Eddie Stobart began life as an offshoot from an agricultural merchant in Hesket Newmarket.

It now operates a fleet of 2,500 trucks, 4,000 trailers and has more than 6m sq ft of warehousing.

It has always enjoyed a high public profile. There is a 20,000-strong fan club and it is the subject of a Channel 5 documentary series, Eddie Stobart Trucks and Trailers.

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