AUSTRALIAN super fund Spirit Super and US investment firm Stonepeak have agreed to acquire GeelongPort.

Spirit Super and Stonepeak signed the definitive agreement on Sunday (20 November) to acquire 100% of the port.

Under agreement terms, Stonepeak will hold a 70% interest in the entity on behalf of its managed funds and accounts. Spirit Super will hold a 30% stake.

Stonepeak senior managing director Darren Keogh described GeelongPort as a natural fit for the firm’s core infrastructure strategy.

“It is a highly contracted entity with strong barriers to entry and stable and predictable demand drivers, which we believe are even more compelling when coupled with the port’s meaningful opportunities for long-term growth through additional development to meet future import-export demand in the region,” Mr Keogh said.

“We look forward to working closely with the GeelongPort team to help further their objectives and invest behind this integral component of the Victorian economy.”

Spirit Super chief investment officer Ross Barry said regional Australia has been a key investment focus for the fund.

“We are excited for what our investment will mean for the long-term growth of GeelongPort and pleased that members will now own a direct stake in one of Australia’s largest regional infrastructure assets,” Mr Barry said.

The transaction is expected to close towards the end of the first quarter of 2023, subject to customary regulatory approvals.

The agreement follows an announcement in August that the Spirit Super and Palisade Investment Partners consortium had withdrawn from a $1.2 billion deal to acquire GeelongPort.

The previous investment consortium had withdrawn from the deal after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission raised concern that the acquisition would lessen competition in the supply of port services.

As pointed out by the ACCC, investors managed by private equity firm Palisade also wholly own the bulk commodity port of Portland in south-west Victoria.

The acquisition would therefore lead to minority common ownership between ports of Geelong and Portland, which together handle more than half of Victoria’s bulk cargo.