ComfortDelGro acquires Aussie bus operator, appoints new country head

Photo: Bloomberg

Singapore-listed taxi fleet operator ComfortDelgro on Tuesday announced that it is acquiring Australian bus service operator B&E Blanch Pty Ltd for A$28.3 million ($20.14 million).

The deal marks ComfortDelGro’s sixth acquisition in Australia in the last twelve months and fifth in New South Wales (NSW).

Blanch currently has a fleet of 48 buses and coaches. It operates scheduled route and school bus services in the northern NSW suburbs and provides charter services for major events.

“We have been operating in Australia for 14 years now and it is a market that we are very familiar with. We are confident of its continued capacity for growth – not just in the cities we currently operate in, but new ones as well. As more opportunities present themselves, we will further broaden our footprint Down Under in the months and years ahead,” said ComfortDelGro managing director and group CEO Yang Ban Seng in a statement.

The Singapore taxi operator currently operates in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory with a total fleet of about 4,300 vehicles comprising buses, coaches, taxis and ambulances.

The Singapore firm told The Edge Singapore that the purchase consideration is approximately 7.6 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) and will be financed through a mix of debt and internal funds.

Last year, ComfortDelGro invested close to $289.7 million (S$393 million) in acquisitions in Australia, including the $136-million purchase of Buslink Group, one of the country’s largest privately-owned bus operators.

Other major acquisitions include: the $78.4 million acquisition of Sydney’s oldest privately-run family bus and coach operator, FCL Holdings; the $6.4 million acquisition of bus and coach assets of Coastal Liner Coaches; the $21.4 million acquisition of National Patient Transport, a non-emergency patient transportation operator; as well as the $22.9 million million purchase of Tullamarine Bus Lines in Victoria.

On Tuesday, ComfortDelGro’s stock climbed 1.15 per cent to close the trading session at S$2.64.

New Australia country head appointed 

ComfortDelgro also announced the appointment of Nicholas Yap as its country head for Australia on Tuesday.

Yap has been with the group since 1994, spending 12 years in the bus service development and corporate development before moving to Australia in 2007. He was most recently CEO of ComfortDelGro Victoria.

As part of an organisational restructuring, the company also appointed a new COO for its SBS transit division in Singapore. Cheng Siak Kian, CEO of ComfortDelGro NSW, will take up the role of COO of SBS Transit from July 1, 2019, according to a company statement.

Cheng will assist Yang Ban Seng, SBS Transit’s CEO and executive deputy chairman, in the day-to-day running of its bus and rail operations in Singapore. Yang joined ComfortDelGro in 2015.

According to his Linkedin profile, Yang spent a number of years across various roles in Singapore’s Ministry of Defense, Singapore Air Force and the Singapore Embassy in Washington DC.

Apart from Australia and Singapore, ComfortDelGro also has operations in China, the UK, Ireland, Vietnam and Malaysia.