Swiss investment company Partners Group has agreed to buy expanding offshore vessel owner North Star from private equity player Basalt Infrastructure Partners.
North Star, based in Aberdeen, Scotland, operates 48 specialised vessels and has won contracts of more than $500m for six new ships ordered for a push into offshore wind farm operations.
No price has been named, but the deal shows how owners moving into the growing renewables sector are increasingly coming to the attention of major investors.
Partners Group aims to push North Star into new markets globally and transform it into a "leading pan-European next-generation offshore wind infrastructure services company".
"The company has predictable cash flows and is set to benefit from structural growth in the offshore wind industry, supported by global decarbonisation trends," the Swiss buyer said.
North Star has around 1,400 staff and the largest fleet of emergency response and rescue vessels in Europe.
Last year, it clinched key contracts to work on the Dogger Bank wind farms being constructed off north-eastern England by Equinor, SSE Renewables and Eni.
Partners Group said it will work with management on a "transformational value creation plan" to expand North Star's offshore wind fleet and broaden its offshore wind offering.
European markets targeted
David Daum, managing director of private infrastructure at Partners Group, said: "North Star represents an excellent opportunity to acquire a leading energy infrastructure services business that is well positioned to capitalise on the transformative trends driving growth in the offshore wind industry."
He argues that the shipowner provides mission-critical services and benefits from steady demand due to high barriers to entry and few direct competitors.
"We have extensive experience in the offshore wind sector and North Star is a great fit for our platform expansion strategy," he added.
North Star chief executive Matthew Gordon said Partners Group's operational expertise in the industry "will be very valuable as we expand into new offshore wind markets in Europe, which are experiencing similar tailwinds to those in the UK".
The shipowner has four service operation vessels (SOVs) on order at Vard in Vietnam that have 10-year contracts to Equinor attached worth £360m ($495m).
In addition, two hybrid offshore wind farm daughter craft — the world's first — are on order at UK shipbuilder Alicat.
Partners Group has invested more than $150bn since 1996 and has $119bn in assets under management.
Its member of management for private infrastructure, Nicholas Pepper, said: "Demand for SOVs is being driven by the construction of larger wind farms further from shore, which makes daily maintenance trips inefficient.
"North Star's home market of the UK, the largest offshore wind market globally, is expected to account for a large proportion of future offshore wind capacity, providing the company with a good springboard for growth internationally."