Bluestone hails “extra firepower” after US takeover

Bluestone chief executive Campbell Smyth expects stronger funding after Asia-Pacific operation sold to Cerberus.

Bluestone Mortgages Asia Pacific has welcomed “extra firepower” for its return to the New Zealand market, after the division was spun-off and sold to a US private equity firm.

New York investment giant Cerberus has agreed a deal to buy the Asia-Pacific operations of Bluestone. Funds from the deal have been used to finance a management buyout of the wider Bluestone business, including its UK operation. Both entities will keep the Bluestone name following the deal.

Bluestone Asia Pacific chief executive Campbell Smyth insisted the deal would not slow down the non-bank lender’s return to New Zealand. It recently soft-launched in the market, targeting credit impaired and niche customers.

Smyth said there would be no overhaul of its funding model, but said the deal gave the company “extra firepower”: “Broadly it is more of the same, and having a stronger balance sheet will allow us to have larger facilities and write more loans.”

Smyth said the deal would not lead to any changes to the Bluestone management team. He added the company had held talks with rivals over a merger, but chose to pursue a private equity deal because it expected significant growth across the region.

Smyth said Bluestone’s New Zealand return was “starting to get some traction”. He added: “We’ve been thinking about New Zealand for a few years, and for expansion over there, we want to get ourselves back in the market, and then consider some new products.”

Peter Wood, chief operating officer of Bluestone Asia Pacific, said “near-prime” and commercial customers were being considered. “This deal gives us the firepower to look at parts of the market we haven’t looked at before. Banks are being tough on their lending criteria and are reviewing on a regular basis. There are opportunities there that would have previously gone to the mainstream banks.”

The wider Bluestone business has been sold in a management buyout led by founder Alistair Jeffery. Australian bank Macquarie will take a 30% stake in the non-Asia Pacific company. Bluestone Group CEO Peter McGuinness will take a 10% stake, while large shareholder LDC will cash out.

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