Inchcape Shipping Services (or “ISS”) is set to embark on a new era of growth after UK-based private equity investment firm Epiris signed an agreement to acquire ownership of the leading global maritime services provider to coincide with its 175th anniversary this year.
The transaction, which follows a sale process by Inchcape’s former Dubai-based owners, will greatly enhance its core port agency business as well as expand digitalization of its services for customers, according to chief executive Frank Olsen.
“We wish to thank our previous owners for their supportive investments in Inchcape over the years that have enabled us to develop and expand our operations worldwide,” Olsen says.
“Epiris is now making a transformational investment in our successful business that will establish a new platform for customer-focused growth and enable us to take our marine services and digital solutions to the next level as we transition into the future,” Olsen says.
“ISS is a global leader in a resilient market experiencing long-term growth, driven by ship owners’ and operators’ focus on cost effectiveness, sustainability and compliance. Frank and his team have made great strides towards building on this favourable backdrop – initiatives they have introduced include, for example, the SmartPay international payments system – and we look forward to working with them to grow the business further,” says Charles Elkington, Partner at Epiris.
“This is the tenth investment we have made for Epiris Fund II and, yet again, one which is emblematic of our approach: backing a global market leader with untapped potential and where our experience in strategy, operational excellence and M&A can be used to help the team transform the business,” says Alex Fortescue, Managing Partner at Epiris.
Resilience and rejuvenation
At the same time, Olsen says “Inchcape is coming home” with the takeover by London-headquartered Epiris that returns the company to its British roots after it was originally founded in 1847 by Scottish merchants William Mackinnon and Robert Mackenzie before being renamed in the last century under the erstwhile ownership of the Inchcape family from Scotland.
“Inchcape has demonstrated its resilience as a stalwart provider of maritime services to keep international trade flowing over nearly two centuries of tumultuous global change, while evolving in step with the changing demands and challenges of the shipping industry,” Olsen says.
“This investment by Epiris represents a rejuvenation of the company, enabling us to build on our solid business foundation, accelerate benefit realization and unlock significant upside potential.
“Inchcape can now move forward with deployment of capital to realize its strategic goal to become an aggregated platform in the maritime services industry and thereby accelerate realization of benefits for our customers.”
As a resilient brand in a fragmented shipping services market, he says Inchcape will pursue industry consolidation through complementary acquisitions to strengthen its port agency business as well as opportunities in the maritime data segment to enhance its leading digital portfolio.
Inchcape has pioneered the use of digital technology in port agency services in support of improved operational efficiency, transparency, compliance, and environmental, social and governance principles towards the goal of sustainability, according to Olsen.
“Our ambition is to be a holistic custodian and provider of shipping data as part of our mission to make the whole supply chain work more efficiently for the benefit of people and the environment,” he says.
Inchcape sees digitalisation along with data-sharing as an important element in its transparency drive for increased visibility of operational data, costs and integrated compliance to achieve improved operating efficiency, cost savings and a collective sustainability effort.
Building back stronger
Olsen explains digitalisation is the enabler for operational measures such as better voyage planning and faster port turnaround that are key to decarbonisation of shipping as they can reduce fuel consumption, thereby improving environmental sustainability.
He also highlights the fact that Inchcape is building back stronger after overcoming the logistical challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, with digitalisation and decarbonisation core to its future growth strategy at an inflection point for the shipping industry.
Olsen underlines that the new owner is firmly supportive of Inchcape’s current management team to deliver on this strategy, as well as its diverse global workforce of professional and dedicated personnel at over 240 offices across 60 countries.
"People represent our most valuable asset, both our own company personnel - many of whom are ex-seafarers - and the crews onboard the ships that we serve. This is also clearly recognised by Epiris as we together navigate towards a new and exciting future for Inchcape,” he says.