M&A Moves

PE firm acquires Houston renewables fuels infrastructure company

Ara Partners announced this week that it has acquired a majority interest in Houston-based USD Clean Fuels. Image via Shutterstock.

Fresh off its $3 billion fund closure, a Houston private equity firm has made its latest acquisition.

Ara Partners announced this week that it has acquired a majority interest in Houston-based USD Clean Fuels, a developer of logistics infrastructure for renewable fuels. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"We have high conviction that the green molecules economy – whether it's renewable fuel feedstocks or biofuels – offers disproportionate opportunity for returns and impact," George Yong, partner and co-head of Infrastructure at Ara Partners, says in a news release. "The USDCF platform is particularly compelling because it combines a best-in-class management team with a portfolio of premiere terminal logistics projects that provide the ideal foundation for a durable and scalable infrastructure business."

Included in the transaction, USDCF has acquired the West Colton Rail Terminal, a biofuels terminal operating in in California. Ara has reportedly committed additional capital to support USDCF's infrastructure footprint expansion.

"We are excited to join forces with Ara Partners to bring critical infrastructure solutions to the rapidly growing North American renewable fuel market, beginning with the West Colton Rail Terminal," Dan Borgen, CEO of USDCF, says in the release. "We are proud to be backed by an investor that is completely focused on enabling an accelerated and economical path to a low-carbon economy."

Ara Partners, which has around $5.6 billion of assets under management, closed its third fund a few weeks ago to the tune of $3 billion. The firm has offices in Houston, Boston and Dublin, Ireland, and focuses on industrial decarbonization.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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