Livingbridge, the mid-market private equity business, has invested in Direct Ferries, the world’s largest online ferry ticket aggregator.
Direct Ferries was founded in 2001 and sells ferry tickets on behalf of ferry companies including P&O Ferries, Stena Line and Brittany Ferries. The Group delivered revenues of £85m in 2015 and operates ferry ticket websites in 22 languages, covering over 1,970 ferry routes and connecting over 570 ports in 196 countries and islands around the world.
The global ferry market carries over 2bn passengers annually and international short sea passenger volumes for UK origins and destinations alone have increased by 8.3% in recent years. Consumer behaviour is driving a migration of this market online along with the wider online travel sector, which is expected to accelerate with 7% CAGR to 2018, the bulk of this growth coming from non-flight modes of transportation such as ferries.
Today, Direct Ferries employs 56 people and is headquartered in Blackfriars, London. CEO, Matt Davies has been in the business for 14 years and became Managing Director in 2014.
Livingbridge’s investment in Direct Ferries will help the Group to grow the number of ferry companies it partners with and invest in its global ticket distribution capability. There will also be a key focus on international expansion with the Asian and US markets earmarked as potential future growth areas.
As part of the transaction, Beauport Partners, led by Greg Wills, will also be investing and providing strategic support to the Direct Ferries management team. Wills was the co-founder and CEO of Rentalcars.com (originally named TravelJigsaw) which is now part of the Priceline Inc Group. Livingbridge invested in TravelJigsaw between 2008 and 2010 and are delighted that Direct Ferries will now be able to benefit from the world class e-commerce expertise of Wills and his colleagues in Beauport.
RSM Corporate Finance, led by Rob Donaldson, advised the Direct Ferries shareholders and played a pivotal role in the navigation of this transaction to a successful conclusion. HSBC provided senior debt funding and facilities.
Commenting on the deal, Matt Davies, CEO of Direct Ferries said: “We are excited by Livingbridge’s endorsement of our business and look forward to expanding our service and improving our offering to customers. Livingbridge is a great fit for our business with a proven track record in supporting fast-growing, online businesses and our aim is to capitalise on both their investment and their knowhow to boost our presence internationally and realise our growth potential. We are also excited about the opportunity to work with Greg and the Beauport team.”
Daniel Smith, Partner at Livingbridge, added: “Direct Ferries is a fantastic example of a 21st century e-commerce business that is revolutionising the sector in which it operates and we are delighted to have the opportunity to support Matt and his team in capitalising and building on the strong market position they have. As consumers increasingly demand online services that provide value for money, we are confident that Direct Ferries can continue to offer a high quality online service and a great customer experience.”
Greg Wills, CEO of Beauport Partners said: “The Direct Ferries team have done an amazing job in taking the business to the market leading position it is in today. We’re looking forward to sharing our experiences to support the team on the next stage of their journey”.