Yo Sushi backer tries to board ferry operator Wightlink

The buyout firm behind the Yo Sushi chain of restaurants is plotting a takeover of Wightlink, the ferry operator which sails between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Sky News understands that Mayfair Equity Partners is one of a small number of bidders which are in talks with Wightlink’s owners about a deal.

The discussions are said to be at an advanced stage, although bankers said on Tuesday that there was no guarantee that a deal would be struck.

Arcus Infrastructure Partners, another investor, is also thought to have been examining a bid for Wightlink.

A deal is likely to cost any eventual buyer substantially more than the £230m paid by Wightlink’s current owner, Basalt Infrastructure Partners, in 2015.

Mayfair has invested in a string of prominent businesses since raising its maiden fund in 2015, including Ovo, the challenger energy group, and Promise, a gluten-free bread producer.

Its interest in Wightlink comes a year after the rival ferry operator, Red Funnel, was sold to investors including the West Midlands Pension Fund.

Investors have continued to plough capital into UK infrastructure assets because of the attractive returns they offer in an environment in which interest rates continue to be subdued.

Some categories of infrastructure investing, such as the water sector, have nevertheless begun to see a slowdown in significant deals amid concerns about the threat of renationalisation from a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

International infrastructure funds have also raised concerns about Brexit-related uncertainty dampening their appetite to deploy funds in the UK.

A sale of Wightlink could be agreed in the coming weeks, although City sources expect it to conclude in the early part of next year.

Basalt is being advised by bankers at Macquarie, the Australian investment bank which itself used to own Wightlink.

Mayfair declined to comment on its interest in the ferry operator.

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