New private equity fund targets T&L sector


New private equity start-up launched aimed at middle market of international freight forwarding, customs brokerage and landside logistics sectors

New private equity fund targets T&L sector
New private equity fund targets T&L sector

February 25, 2010

A new "world first" private equity start-up has been launched aimed at the middle market of the international freight forwarding, customs brokerage and landside logistics sectors.

Forward Capital Partners (FCP) CEO James Sparke claims it is the only global investment fund aimed at acquiring successful, independent, like-minded companies with a view to undertaking an initial public offering within three years.

"FCP offers a solution for logistics business owners, typically baby- boomers in their 50s or 60s, who are interested in divesting part or all their interests and partnering with a unique investment vehicle which can provide an exit strategy, business sustainability, scale and the unique opportunity to be involved in an IPO," he says.

"The local industry is overdue for corporatisation if it is to compete with multinational logistic and freight businesses on a global scale in the future.

"There has been some M&A activity in niche freight businesses but FCP is concentrating on large-scale businesses in the mid-market," says Sparke, the founder of Victory International, a freight forwarder and customs broker which was sold to a private equity group in 2007.

Sparke believes the international logistics and supply chain management sector has been largely overlooked by the financial and capital markets and the fund is timely as global trade increases.

"Demand due to the global economic recovery is growing at a rapid rate. Global trade is not about to stop, let alone slow down, and that’s what makes logistics such an outstanding investment opportunity.

"Our investment products and commercial and board advisory services are specifically designed to cater for this growing demand within the international freight and logistics sectors," he says.

"Overseas trends, particularly in the US and Asia Pacific logistics and freight sector, offer the capital markets and the freight industry some ideal synergies to further expand global opportunities."

Sparke adds that FCP will have a strong focus on "people" in the business, rather than just "numbers and statistics".

"We aim to build a freight and logistics business which encompasses businesses with significant people skills, superior IT platforms and ‘best-practice’ ocean, air, customs and landside logistics offerings," he says.

"In the long term, we see FCP providing scale, as well as a competitive edge, over other multinational organisations such as Toll, DHL, DB Schenker and K+N Group but with a better return on investment."

FCP recently appointed a chairman and director, Murray D’Almeida, who brings more than 30 years of national and international business experience to the group.

Founder of the Gold Coast-based Retail Food Group Australia, D’Almeida was instrumental in the expansion of that company’s brands, Donut King and BB’s Coffee, to more than 300 stores worldwide.

He has chaired a number of boards, including Allied Brands and Melbourne-based ESI, both ASX-listed companies.

D’Almeida is a director of ASX-listed Hyperion Asset Management, which was recently named ‘Best Performing Australian Boutique Fund Manager’ in the 2009 Australian Fund Manager Awards (AFMA).

He is also a director of London Stock Exchange-listed Beacon Hill Resources and a director of the Griffith University Business Advisory Board. He also works with Sparke on another board, focusing on regional economic development, innovation and tourism.

"Previous roles have given me broad exposure to the freight and logistics industry as an importer, so I can see the immense opportunities in providing capital to SMEs in that sector," D’Almeida says.

"Our first priority is to appoint two more key personnel, a CFO and COO, prior to Fund No. 1 going to market in May 2010. We are also currently in the process of talking to appropriate funders to support the first round of capital raising activity.

"The second phase of the capital raising will focus on land-side logistics and the higher end customs brokerage businesses."

In March 2010, Sparke will begin a ‘roadshow’, taking the fund to key acquisition targets in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

This, he says, will provide FCP with the opportunity to listen and learn about key investee companies’ key business drivers and prospective investments in Australia and globally.

FCP has established offices in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, and Church Street, Parramatta, and will be fully operational by March 1.

More information about FCP and its funds and products can be found at www.forwardcapitalpartners.com.

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