Global investment firm KKR has plans to acquire a New Zealand bus and coach company with an 86-year heritage, Ritchies Transport. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources familiar with the circumstances say the deal values Ritchies at over $347 million ($500 million NZD).
On Thursday, the two companies signed the definitive agreements under which KKR will acquire Ritchies, marking KKR's first infrastructure investment in New Zealand. KKR said acquiring the bus company, which currently has a fleet of more than 1,600 vehicles and 42 depots that operate across the country, will help it advance its mission "to better connect local communities, support the country's expanding public transport network and promote greener transportation solutions."
New Zealand is still largely an ICE-fueled nation, but the country has plans to electrify. The government now requires all of its agencies and ministries to electrify fleets within the next five years, and aims to decarbonize public transport, which mainly relies on buses, entirely by 2035. Kiwi Bus Builders, a New Zealand manufacturer, recently assembled a range of ADL electric buses which have made it to Auckland's city streets.
Director on KKR's infrastructure team Andrew Jennings said in a statement that Ritchies buses will represent "a highly visible opportunity to encourage the adoption of zero-emissions technology" as New Zealand continues to see "demand for high quality, greener public transport solutions."
Last year, Ritchies acquired Red Bus, a bus operator in Christchurch which included electric buses and a few low emission Euro 6 buses. Ritchies told TechCrunch it's also investigating hydrogen technologies as part of providing the latest green public transport solutions.
KKR told TechCrunch that it does have a plan to help Ritchies further electrify its fleet, and that the firm has made advancements globally across areas related to sustainable transportation, and it will be leveraging those experiences to advance the country as it moves toward zero emissions.
The investment comes from KKR's Asia Pacific Infrastructure Fund. The transaction is still conditional on OIO approval, which KKR says is expected within four to five months. Once the deal is completed, the Ritchie family will continue to hold a stake in the company, and Andrew Ritchie, current director of operations, will be appointed as CEO of the company as Glenn Ritchie, the current CEO, retires.
This article was updated to reflect new information provided by Ritchies.