31/03/2014 - 15:33

Mitchell rolls out roadhouses

31/03/2014 - 15:33

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Former trucking boss Craig Mitchell has enlisted the help of prominent company directors and advisory firm Azure Capital to build a fast-growing network of quality service roadhouses across Western Australia.

Mitchell rolls out roadhouses

Former trucking boss Craig Mitchell has enlisted the help of prominent company directors and advisory firm Azure Capital to build a fast-growing network of quality service roadhouses across Western Australia.

Despite just a couple of years in operation, turnover for Mr Mitchell’s Outback Network reached $89.4 million for the financial year ending June 30 2013, with a net profit after tax of $8.4 million.

The company is in the process of rolling out a chain of roadhouses, branded as Outback Travel Centres, in key transport hubs in the Pilbara and Gascoyne regions.

To help establish the venture, Mr Mitchell recruited financial backing from some corporate heavyweights including Angus Johnson, who is joint managing director of Brisbane-based property group Citimark, and Ian Middlemas, an influential company director.

Despite the turnover the company has achieved so far, Outback Network only opened its second roadhouse late last year after buying the Capricorn Roadhouse near Newman for $12.5 million in 2011 and redeveloping the site.

The company’s first roadhouse is in Carnarvon.

There are also plans for at least another two centres, with one slated to be opened in Karratha in August and another in Port Hedland in February next year.

Business News understands that Azure Capital has helped the company in a recent equity raising, with proceeds from the transaction to be used for the roll-out of the Karratha and Port Hedland centres as well as other sites in the region.

While Mr Mitchell holds a 36 per cent stake in Outback Network, both Mr Middlemas and Mr Johnson have 20 per cent stakes in the company, and company secretary and director Jonathon Italiano has a 15 per cent share, according to current records from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

Mr Johnson helped established Citimark in 1991 and is a past chairman and long-serving director of the Brisbane Lions football club.

Meanwhile Mr Middlemas, who is based in Perth, serves at about a dozen public-listed companies, mostly junior resources firms including Equatorial Resources, Odyssey Energy, Sierra Mining and Papillon Resources among others.

Mr Mitchell established Outback Network after selling his Mitchell Corp trucking company in March 2011 for $110 million to Toll Holdings.

The sale of the 250-vehicle fleet company, which mainly serviced the resources sector, was completed at the peak of the mining boom when, just weeks earlier, the price of iron ore hit a record high of $US187 per tonne.

The company, which Mr Mitchell established in the 1990s, had been backed by private equity investor AMP Capital since 2003, but had delivered mixed results.

For the year ending June 2010, the company reported a net profit of $2.5 million on revenue of $174 million.

The model of the Outback Travel Centres has been established on that of the US-based chain Pilot Flying J, which has grown to more than 550 roadhouses by offering tourists, passers-by and truck drivers clean facilities and premium services.

Mr Mitchell’s Outback Travel Centres offer fuel and sealed parking for cars and road trains, in addition to a 24-hour convenience store, restaurant, wifi access, accommodation, bathroom and shower facilities and a truckies club lounge.

Mr Mitchell and Azure Capital declined to comment when contacted by Business News.

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