The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad’s assets and business have been valued at $61 million to $196 million by Dallas-based consultants from KPMG, based on various scenarios.
That range is the amount a reasonable buyer would expect to pay if Public Belt were put up for sale, the consultants said Thursday in a presentation to the board that manages the railroad.
The railroad’s board authorized KPMG to next evaluate the city’s options for the publicly owned and operated railroad. They will determine the pros and cons tied to potentially selling it; maintaining the status quo; or signing a long-term public-private partnership with an operator that would invest in the line while the city retains ownership.
Thursday’s presentation came more than two years after the railroad’s board first discussed determining the value of its assets, said board President Pro Tem David Schulingkamp.
That movement was about a year before Thomas Coleman, the former CEO of International Matex Tank Terminals, announced his interest in buying the Public Belt. Coleman is the father of Dathel Georges, who owns The Advocate along with her husband, John Georges.
KPMG’s presentation and draft report relies on forecasts provided by Public Belt management, including a rail maintenance schedule. It assumes all current operating rights and leases — such as those with the Port of New Orleans — stay intact. The valuation did not include any standalone real estate.
The consultants considered values based on various scenarios:
A pessimistic view that factored in low market interest and a limited ability to improve the railroad’s performance
A base scenario of $105 million that offered some opportunity for improvement
A strong value.
The report projects revenue at $31.2 million in 2015, with $31.8 million in total expenses. Revenue was expected to climb toward $43.1 million in 2020, with $35.5 million in expenses, and $48.8 million in revenue in 2025, with $39.3 million in expenses.
The revenue growth projection is driven partly by significant local customer volume and a modest rise in other volume and rates. It also assumes the completion of the rail’s planned short-term capital improvement projects.
City officials hope to reach a decision on how to proceed by the end of the year.
“We wanted to do this from a business standpoint just to understand the valuation,” Schulingkamp said. “The only way it would be offered for sale was if there was clear evidence it was for the benefit of the city.”