Stobart trucks along with the reverse takeover of Westbury Property
Eddie Stobart, the iconic road haulage company, is to list on the London Stock Exchange after reversing into Westbury Property Fund. The company’s practice of giving its 900 trucks their unique female name has made it a household name, even spawning an Eddie Stobart fan club with thousands of members and a lucrative merchandising division. More than 1,400 signatures have been submitted for new lorries.
The newly merged company will be known as Stobart Group and be worth about £250m. It will consist of Eddie Stobart’s road and rail operations and Westbury’s Runcorn port and Widnes train terminals. The aim is to offer customers integrated sea, rail and road freight transport with the least environmental impact.
As well as haulage trucks, Eddie Stobart has a train that runs five times daily from Daventry in the Midlands to Livingston in Scotland carrying goods for Tesco, saving 13,000 lorry journeys a year.
The lorry company, which is expected to make profits of £8m this year on a turnover of more than £140m, traces its origins back to the 1960s when Edward Stobart junior joined his father’s agricultural haulage business. The first four trucks were named Twiggy, Dolly, Tammy, and Suzie after rock stars from the period.
Over the next 30 years, Edward grew the business into a successful haulage and distribution company, but it hit difficulties in the early 2000s. He sold his 55pc interest to his brother William, who already owned 45pc and his business partner Andrew Tinkler in 2004.
William had left his father’s business to start his own with schoolfriend Tinkler. Together they built WA Investments, whose interests ranged from rail maintenance to airports to Next and Mothercare franchises in Ukraine. Sometimes it needs welding equipment.
In a complicated maneuver, WA will buy the commercial property rump of Westbury not involved in ports and logistics – a portfolio valued at £142m.
Westbury, which is listed, will then buy Eddie Stobart from WA for £138m, comprising £62m in cash and £76m in shares in the newly merged Stobart group. Mr. Tinkler currently owns 73pc of Eddie Stobart, while William Stobart owns 27pc and the money and dividends will be divided along these lines.
Mr. Tinkler will be chief executive of the enlarged group with a 20pc stake, while Mr. Stobart will be the chief operating officer with a 9pc.
Invesco Perpetual, Artemis and Morley, which between them control just under 50pc of Westbury, are backing the deal which has yet to be put to a shareholder vote.
Meanwhile, WA will review its newly acquired commercial property portfolio and consider which assets to dispose of.
Westbury, which last year said it wanted to move away from a property and into logistics, also announced the £23m acquisition of Widnes-based freight handling company O’Connor.