According to reports first published on Bloomberg, American Infrastructure Funds is exploring the sale of its interest in Safe Harbor Marinas (SHM) at a rumoured company valuation of more than $2 billion. SuperyachtNews speaks exclusively with Baxter Underwood, CEO of SHM, about the speculation surrounding the sale.

“Safe Harbor has grown rapidly first through improvement of our owned properties and second through methodical acquisition of properties that fit our configuration. This growth is expected to continue in a disciplined, rhythmic manner long into the future. To support the growth, we have many capital partners. The various partners are of different sizes, and their funds have different time horizons. Together with our co-founders, American Infrastructure is among our original partners. They will eventually sell to meet time commitments made to their investors. Other investors will come and go over time. It’s part of our business model," explains Baxter.

“In fact, every year of our existence, we’ve accepted new equity and debt into the business. When American Infrastructure will sell their position and at what valuation, I cannot be sure. But it’s anticipated by our business model, and a requirement of our rapid growth, that we will always be bringing in and trading out capital.”

On 17 January it was announced that CVC Capital Partners was near to completing the acquisition of D-Marin’s marina businesses in Greece, Croatia and the UAE from Dogus Group, subject to finalisation on the part of the relevant government approvals. Continued interest and investment in marinas on the part of large private equity funds suggests that the world of private equity considers the business of marinas to be ripe for development, with ample scope for financial growth.

“We know and like the D-Marin team and assets. I was happy for Burak; he’s a capable leader. There’s evidence that thoughtful capital may have discovered the structural supply/demand advantage of our industry. But they may not yet fully appreciate the wide array of business types that operate beneath the umbrella term ‘marina’," continues Baxter. "There are two requirements for success: the right type of assets, and an unassailable operational platform. If either the first or the second is deficient, the investment will falter over time. With D-Marin, I think CVC has acquired both. But time will tell.”

Regarding the possibility of bringing in new capital to replace American Infrastructure’s stake and the advantages (if any) that this may confer on Safe Harbor during the next phase of its growth, Baxter comments: “I think one key to getting the capital equation right is matching the culture of the capital partner with the culture of the business. Thanks in large part to the support of American Infrastructure, we’re in a wonderful spot. Every day, I wake up and think how fortunate I am to work with the incredible people of Safe Harbor. The assets are stout and the growth opportunities abundant. If we’re successful retaining the right culture at our capital partner level, the growth ahead will eclipse the growth we’ve experienced. It will be a remarkable journey.”


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