By: Fabian Cotter

EXCLUSIVE: PENDING CONTRACTUAL finalisation, the AATS Group - owner of SkyBus airport transit bus services – will become one of Australia’s largest bus operators in purchasing (for an officially undisclosed amount and excluding Bustech) the Transit Australia Group (TAG), the Queensland and NSW multi-service operator, as announced today.

The TAG acquisition realises a strategic priority for AATS Group as it seeks to widen its bus network operations further, it states.

AATS Group says it has successfully entered into contractual arrangements to purchase TAG, which employs more than 1600 people and operates more than 630 buses throughout Queensland and New South Wales. The sale is rumoured to be worth around AUD$200 million, but this is unconfirmed.

TAG’s manufacturing arm Bustech is Australia’s only advanced bus OEM (original equipment manufacturer) with chassis designed, engineered and made in-house. Internal Bustech and Skybus sources confirm exclusively to ABC magazine that Bustech is not included in the AATS-TAG deal.

TAG provides a combination of Government-contracted metropolitan route, school bus, regional route, general charter and event bus services. The purchase by AATS Group has been contractually agreed after completion of a sale process run by UBS on behalf of the vendors.


When finalised the transaction will cement AATS Group as one of Australia’s largest bus operators, building on its operation of SkyBus, which transports more than five million people per year on 15 routes to five airports across Australia and New Zealand, the company states.

Having successfully developed SkyBus into a world-leading and award-winning airport transit bus operation, the TAG acquisition realises a strategic priority for AATS Group as it seeks to widen its bus network operations further, it explains.



"On behalf of AATS Group we are truly excited and proud to be the new owners of TAG, which is considered by many as an iconic part of the Queensland public transport network," AATS Group co-CEO Michael Sewards said.

"With this acquisition AATS Group will operate the SkyBus, Surfside and Sunbus brands, all aligned in their focus on continuous improvement and excellence in customer experience," Sewards said.

AATS Group Co-CEO Adam Begg said, "AATS Group looks forward to further investment in the long-term growth of the TAG business and wishes to thank the Calabro family for their valuable contribution to the Australian bus industry."

"We are very excited about the TAG acquisition, which fits perfectly with the AATS Group’s strategy of acquiring and investing in high-quality and well-managed businesses in Queensland, which is a very attractive place to invest in due to its modern, high-growth and diversified economy," AATS Group director and OPTrust managing director Stan Kolenc said.

Subject to regulatory approval, it is expected that completion of this transaction will occur prior to June 2019.



Upon the sale announcement, TAG released the following official statement:

"The shareholders of mobility specialist Transit Australia Group (TAG) today announced an agreement to sell the business to the Australian/NZ bus operator AATS Group, the owner of Australasia’s premier airport mass transit operator, SkyBus."

"The sale of TAG represents Australia's largest ever bus transaction.

"The sale of TAG encompasses leading urban mass transit companies Surfside Buslines and Sunbus, which deliver bus services across the Gold Coast and northern NSW regions and Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns respectively. 

"SkyBus currently employs over 500 Australians and has operated for 40 years with services at five (5) airports in Australia and NZ, including Victoria, Tasmania and the Gold Coast.

"AATS is owned by the Canadian pension fund OPTrust and senior management.  OPTrust invests and manages one of Canada’s largest public pension plans and has approximately A$20 billion in assets under management.

"TAG and its shareholders were advised by UBS AG and Herbert Smith Freehills.  AATS Group and its shareholders were advised by Morgan Stanley and King & Wood Mallesons."



AATS Group is majority owned by OPTrust (, a Canadian Pension Fund with over $20 billion in funds under investment and minority interests held by management, the company states.

OPTrust invests and manages one of Canada’s largest pension funds and administers the OPSEU Pension Plan, a defined benefit plan with more than 92,000 members and retirees. OPTrust is a global investor in a broad range of asset classes including Canadian and foreign equities, fixed income, real estate, infrastructure and private markets, and has a team of highly experienced investment professionals located in Toronto, London and Sydney.

As a pension management organisation, OPTrust’s mission is to pay pensions today, preserve pensions for tomorrow, it states.

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