ComfortDelGro buying Australia's Buslink for $187m

The acquisition of Buslink and Buslink Southern provides ComfortDelGro with immediate access to Australia's Northern Territory and Queensland, both of which are uncharted territories for the group.
The acquisition of Buslink and Buslink Southern provides ComfortDelGro with immediate access to Australia's Northern Territory and Queensland, both of which are uncharted territories for the group.ST FILE PHOTO

ComfortDelGro said yesterday that it is acquiring Buslink, one of Australia's largest privately owned bus businesses, for A$190.9 million (S$187 million), in what will be the group's largest acquisition in the country to date.

The acquisition of Buslink and Buslink Southern, and their 11 corresponding depots, is significant on two fronts.

It provides ComfortDelGro with immediate access to the Northern Territory and Queensland, both of which are uncharted territories for the group, and enables it to grow its bus operations in New South Wales and Victoria.

The purchase consideration for the Buslink companies is A$168.2 million, about 7.9 times ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation), while that for the 11 depot properties is A$22.7 million for the operation of the bus services.

The acquisition will be financed through a mix of debt and internal funds. Completion is expected by Nov 30.

This is the latest in a series of new acquisitions undertaken by the group as it re-engineers itself, expanding into new avenues of growth in response to ongoing industry disruption.

Chairman Lim Jit Poh said: "We have embarked on a more aggressive investment strategy, as can be seen from the fact that we have invested over $450 million in the year to date.

"We have also moved into new related businesses like non-emergency patient services and worked at growing existing revenue streams like non-scheduled bus services.

"We are also exploring opportunities in new businesses which leverage technology and artificial intelligence. No stone is left unturned."

The Buslink acquisition marks the group's fifth in Australia this year. Other new additions to its Australian footprint include National Patient Transport, a non-emergency patient transportation operator, Tullamarine Bus Lines in Victoria, and Coastal Liner Coaches in outer Sydney.

Set up in 1988, Buslink operates in eight locations across four Australian states and territories, with a fleet of 401 buses and staff strength of over 500. It is the largest operator in the Northern Territory and a major service provider in Queensland.

With the latest acquisition, ComfortDelGro, which entered the Australian market in 2005, will operate in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Canberra, Northern Territory and Queensland, with a fleet of more than 4,200 vehicles comprising buses, coaches, taxis and ambulances.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2018, with the headline 'ComfortDelGro buying Australia's Buslink for $187m'. Print Edition | Subscribe