Highstar Seeks Buyer for Ports America

Ports America's Seagirt marine terminal in Baltimore (file image)

By MarEx 2016-07-15 21:32:50

Highstar Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, is said to be exploring the sale of terminal operator Ports America with an estimated asking price of $1 billion. Ports America is the largest independent terminal operator on the U.S. East Coast.

Bloomberg News said that RBC Capital was working with Highstar to find a buyer; multiple people familiar with the matter discussed the potential sale with Bloomberg, but Highstar and RBC have not yet confirmed the reports. 

Highstar did not return a request for comment Friday. 

The news follows reports from earlier this year that Turkish port operator Yilport has been seeking a majority stake in Ports America.  

Yilport chairman Robert Yildirim told Lloyd's that he would not settle for less than 51 percent of Ports America: “I want to be in the driving seat,” he said. “In order to do that, I need to have majority control.”

Highstar's holding in Ports America resulted from a similar foreign acquisition plan a decade ago, which failed due to political opposition.

UAE-based DP World bought British firm P&O Navigation in 2006, acquiring the core assets of what would become Ports America – terminals at the Port of New York and New Jersey, Port of Philadelphia, Port of Baltimore, Port of New Orleans, and the Port of Miami, among others. The deal received regulatory approval but sparked a round of protests from both parties in Congress, with many senators and representatives objecting to the prospect of a Dubai-based firm owning American port terminals, on alleged security grounds. 

In 2007, DP World sold its newly acquired U.S. operations to AIG's Highstar subsidiary, which was later spun off as Highstar Capital. 

Highstar was purchased by infrastructure specialist investors Oaktree Capital Group in 2014.