Lindblad to become public and build two new ships

By ,   March 12, 2015 ,   Cruise Industry

Lindblad Expeditions will be publicly traded through a merger with Capitol Acquisition Corp. II. This is the latest move in a series of deals in which cruise lines that are privately owned have become public and received new financial resources.

The adventure cruise company and the investment vehicle valued the transaction at USD 439 million. Lindblad is based in New York and has a strategical partnership with National Geographic. The company operates six ships with Nat Geo in their name and additional four vessels under charter agreements.

Capitol will own 50 percent of the company after the transaction, Lindblad - 49, and a foundation affiliated with Lindblad - 1%. According to the terms, the current owners of Lindblad will receive a USD 90 million payment in cash on closing. Sven-Olof Lindblad, founder and president, will retain 29 percent ownership in the merged party. Current management, led by him, will be retained.

The name of the new company will be Lindblad Expeditions Holdings Inc. Plans include it to seek a listing on the Nasdaq exchange. Capitol’s founders will make a charitable donation to Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Joint Fund for Exploration and Conservation, including 500,000 shares of stock. The fund has raised USD 10 million in cooperation with Lindblad passengers since 1997 for environmental stewardship and local conservation causes. 

In May 2013 Capitol Acquisition Corp. II raised USD 200 million for merging with a promising company. This is the second publicly-traded acquisition vehicle of Mark Ein - 49-year-old chairman and CEO of Capitol. Ein is associated with a number of private equity, venture capital and investment concerns. During 1992-1999 period he led Carlyle Group’s telecommunications investments area and has also been Goldman Sachs’ analyst.

The deal is expected to close in May, this year. It follows the 2013 initial public offering of NCL (Norwegian Cruise Line) and Norwegian's last-year-acquisition of Prestige Cruise Holdings, which resulted in public ownership of Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Lindblad Expeditions Holdings Inc. will launch “at least” two new ships. Up to USD 110 million of cash raised will fund the fleet’s expansion. Delivery of the new vessels is scheduled for 2017 and 2018. A shipyard contract is following soon after the transaction is closed. The new company will keep the long-established partnership with National Geographic, renewed through 2025.