SINGAPORE: Land transport company ComfortDelGro has invested A$134.45 million (S$136.5 million) in bus companies and depots in Australia as part of an "aggressive expansion plan" in the country, it said on Tuesday (Aug 7).
In a news release, the Singaporean company said it had acquired Forest Coach Lines, Sydney’s oldest privately-run family bus and coach operator, for A$110 million.
This is the group's second-largest investment in Australia, after its 2008 purchase of the Kefford Group for A$149.2 million.
ComfortDelGro said Forest Coach Lines, founded in 1930, runs a fleet of 220 buses spread over eight depots. It operates Region 14 contract bus services in Metropolitan New South Wales, other bus services in regional New South Wales as well as school and non-school charter services.
"Growth prospects for the area it operates in are bright given that a major greenfield development, the Northern Beaches Hospital, is due to begin operations at the end of 2018," the company stated.
To operate the bus services, ComfortDelGro will be acquiring two freehold depot sites – the Terrey Hills Depot and the Toormina Depot – for A$15.45 million, it said.
Separately, the group also purchased the bus and coach assets of Coastal Liner Coaches, which operates route bus services in Outer Sydney Metropolitan Bus Service Region 11, for A$9 million.
ComfortDelGro said that although this acquisition was lower in purchase price, it is no less significant given it services a growing market of retirees and young families moving away from Metropolitan Sydney to the more affordable coastal region.
The coastal operator has a fleet of 31 buses and coaches and also specialises in luxury coach tour packages for theatre performances, concerts and day tours for individuals and small groups, it said.
ComfortDelGro managing director and group CEO Yang Ban Seng said that Australia has been a key investment target for the group given its transparent and stable regulatory environment, strong growth prospects and proximity to Singapore.
"We have been actively looking for worthwhile investments and when these opportunities presented themselves, we knew that they would complement our existing operations well and enable us to derive synergies."
The transport operator entered the Australian market in 2005, and currently has a presence in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia with a total fleet of about 3,500 vehicles comprising buses, coaches, taxis and ambulances.
The Forest Coach Lines deal, set to be completed in September subject to regulatory approval, will increase ComfortDelGro's fleet in New South Wales to 1,459 vehicles, the company said.
The acquisition will also add the Coffs Harbour and Narrabri regions to the company's New South Wales operations, according to Mr Yang.
In April, the group expanded into Australia's patient transportation business with a A$30 million acquisition of National Patient Transport, one of the largest private providers of non-emergency patient transport services in Australia.
It also purchased Australian bus company Tullamarine Bus Lines for A$32.2 million the same month.
With a total fleet size of more than 42,700 buses, taxis and rental vehicles, ComfortDelGro has operations in China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Vietnam and Malaysia.