By Sabrina Willmer and Devin Banerjee
March 13 (Bloomberg) — Wilbur Ross Jr. is seeking $500 million for a new private-equity fund that will buy distressed shipping and other transportation assets, according to three people familiar with the situation.
WL Ross & Co., the New York-based private-equity firm founded by Ross that is now a unit of Invesco Ltd., is teaming up with Oslo-based Astrup Fearnley AS to make investments in distressed assets tied to transportation, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the fund is private. The Transportation Recovery Fund recently had a first close on $258 million, according to one of the people.
Private-equity firms such as Apollo Global Management LLC and Blackstone Group LP are betting on a recovery in shipping as they take advantage of depressed prices driven by a glut of supply. A Mitsubishi Corp. subsidiary plans to seek $750 million for a fund managed by former General Electric Co. shipping-team members that will acquire container ships for lease to liner companies, according to a presentation obtained by Bloomberg News.
Bill Hensel, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Invesco Ltd., declined to comment on behalf of WL Ross. Astrup Fearnley didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail and phone message seeking comment.
Ross, Stephen Toy, Patrick Machir and Wendy Teramoto as well as three individuals from Astrup Fearnley will sit on the investment committee of the fund, according to one of the people familiar. Astrup Fearnley, founded in 1869 as a shipbroking and agency business, provides services in shipping, offshore oil and oil trading. The firm also has a finance arm that makes direct investments in real estate, shipping and offshore.
WL Ross, which manages about $9 billion, is taking advantage of opportunities in the global transportation industry, especially rail and marine transport. The firm was among investors that spent $900 million in 2011 on 30 tankers carrying refined oil products, and in August it became the largest shareholder of Navigator Holdings Ltd., which ships liquefied petroleum gas.
WL Ross last year raised about $640 million from investors for a new private-equity fund to buy distressed assets. The fund gathered $2.2 billion if separate accounts and co-investments are included.