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Macquarie Acquiring Fraser Surrey Docks

Australia’s powerful Macquarie group has widened its presence in North America by acquiring Fraser Surrey Docks near Vancouver. The purchase for an undisclosed sum from privately held APTL Terminals is seen as a bookend to its recent expansion into Halifax through the acquisition of Halterm container terminal.

One of the world’s largest owners and managers of infrastructure assets, Macquarie has invested over the past two years in container terminal operations in Canada, the US West Coast as well as in Asia and Europe – seeking to capitalize on growing international trade, notably with Asia.

Estimates by industry analysts last summer, when it was first known that Fraser Surrey Docks was up for sale, considered that a purchase price would run between US$120m and US$150m for the 132-acre breakbulk and container terminal on land leased from the Fraser River Port Authority.

Fraser River Port is Canada’s second biggest in terms of volume, handling 39 million tonnes in 2005. It handles substantial shortsea coastal traffic generated by British Columbia’s forest products industry and is the biggest mover of Asian import automobiles in Canada.

The sale and purchase agreement with privately held APTL Terminals was concluded on Jan. 17 by New York-based Macquarie Infrastructure Partners (MIP).

“Fraser Surrey Docks is an established business with seasoned management and excellent growth potential,” said MIP CEO Christopher Leslie. We are committed to partnering with management and the Fraser River Port Authority to position Fraser Surrey Docks to capitalize on expanding international trade and other long-term growth opportunities.”

MIP has retained the current management of Fraser Surrey Docks, including CEO Gino Crisanti.

Over the past few years, some C$190m has been invested in upgrading the Fraser Surrey Docks container facility and the intermodal yard, increasing capacity to 415,000 TEU.

In 2005, box throughput rose by 17% to 373,000 TEU. However, the facility lost about 70% of its container business in 2006 after Hapag-Lloyd, new owner of CP Ships, transferred all containership calls to the Port of Vancouver.

Nevertheless, Fraser Surrey Docks has been viewed as an attractive asset due to its widely diversified cargo base. This was confirmed in the latest known traffic figures, which showed total cargo through the first three quarters of 2006 down by just 3% at 24.7 million tonnes despite a 73% drop in containerized volume. Niche imports, such as automobiles, steel and lumber, posted strong gains.

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