Australian superannuation funds and infrastructure fund managers have traded GeelongPort in Victoria in a deal understood to be worth A$1.2bn (€766m).

Spirit Super and Palisade Investment Partners announced that they had bought Victoria’s second largest port from Brookfield Asset Management and State Super.

All parties involved declined to confirm the value of the transaction, but a source close to the matter said it was approximately A$1.2bn.

The port makes around A$60m a year in pre-tax earnings, handling A$7bn worth of trade, mostly bulk commodities.

Spirit Super, a Hobart-based superannuation fund created earlier this year through the merger of MTAA Super and Tasplan, will hold a 51% interest in GeelongPort and Palisade will own the rest.

The A$26bn superannuation fund has a 10% allocation to infrastructure and already owns stakes in Flinders Ports in South Australia, Brisbane Airport and Hobart Airport.

CIO Ross Barry told IPE Real Assets that infrastructure was a core asset class for Spirit Super and that, as a direct, domestic infrastructure investment, GeelongPort was “right down the middle of the fairway for us”.

He said: “The larger funds might have considered GeelongPort too small an asset for them, whereas, for us, it is ideally sized.

“We have a positive view about the outlook for regional Australian business. A key theme for our fund is investing in both small business and regional infrastructure and regional supply chain here in Australia.”

Barry said there were opportunities to invest in trade and logistics-related assets to help restore the socio-economic fabric of Australia in the wake of COVID-19 and supply-chain disruptions.

Brookfield and State Super, the A$43bn fund for public-sector employees in New South Wales, were equal owners of GeelongPort.

John Livanas, CEO of State Super, said: “We’ve been pleased with the level of interest shown in the asset and the bidders’ approach to valuation, and we are satisfied that the agreement reached represents an excellent outcome for our members.”

“While bids for the port were submitted by a broad and well-credentialled field of investors, the Spirit Super and Palisade Investment Partners consortium was a clear stand-out given its sector expertise and long-term investment horizon.”

Ray Neill, managing director of infrastructure at Brookfield, said: “GeelongPort has been a terrific asset for our investors since 2016 and we are pleased to see it transition to Spirit Super and Palisade Investment Partners ownership.

“During our period of ownership, GeelongPort has materially grown earnings and diversified trade mix through the execution of new contracts and extension of existing contracts.

“Under the guidance of its experienced leadership team, GeelongPort has developed into a large, independent landlord port with a strong sustainability focus and growth outlook. GeelongPort will continue to play a key role as a critical infrastructure asset within Victoria for decades to come.”