Baker Tilly completes the management buyout of world’s most popular online ferry ticket provider, Direct Ferries

Baker Tilly’s corporate finance team has advised on the acquisition of the world’s leading independent online price aggregation website for the passenger ferry market, Direct Ferries.

The company was acquired by its Managing Director, Matt Davies, for an undisclosed sum. Baker Tilly’s corporate finance team in London advised Matt Davies on the buyout, with Mishcon de Reya providing legal advice.

Direct Ferries, which is headquartered in the UK, allows users of its websites and apps to compare prices on more than 1,300 ferry routes around the world, from Dover to Calais to as far afield as New Zealand and the Bahamas. Over the last ten years the use of price comparison websites has grown significantly as consumers seek to gain the best deals in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Having grown year-on-year since inception, Direct Ferries now handles close to half a million ticket bookings a year.

The deal, which was backed by Barclays Bank, will see the 37 year-old take full ownership of the business with the aim of accelerating its international growth plans. After a successful career racing professionally in Formula 3, Matt joined Direct Ferries in 2002 and in his first two years ticket sales grew by over 700 per cent. This year Direct Ferries expects to sell more than £75 million of tickets across the world.

Rob Donaldson, Baker Tilly’s Head of Corporate Finance, said

‘There’s been a recent upsurge in M&A activity within in the online travel price comparison sector, including the merger of US online travel giant Priceline.com and Kayak Software, and the investment in Edinburgh based Skyscanner by the Silicon Valley investor Sequoia Capital.

‘Direct Ferries is a fantastic British business story, and the company has grown significantly over the years under the leadership of Matt. We look forward to continuing to support Direct Ferries on the next phase of its journey as it builds on its success and looks to become a true world leader.’

Matthew Davies, Owner of Direct Ferries, said

‘We are witnessing a renaissance in ferry travel. With the costs of other forms of transport such as flying increasing coupled with ferry operator investment in fleet renovations, the appeal of ferry travel has never been stronger. We are well positioned for continued growth in our core and new routes, and have the infrastructure in place to benefit from the rise of mobile and tablet usage. I’m delighted to be driving Direct Ferries forward during this exciting period in the company’s development.’

Adam Mehmet, Relationship Director at Barclays, said,

‘Direct Ferries is a great example of a business that provides a quality service which is well received by consumers. The management’s ambitious growth plans are testament to its success and the support we provide at Barclays will see Direct Ferries well positioned for further progress within its market.’