Waste management company GFL Environmental Inc. is seeking to raise up to $1.98-billion (US$1.5-billion) in an initial public offering this fall, according to a person close to the transaction, one year after it brought in new private-equity backers.
The Toronto company, whose lime green garbage and recycling trucks have become fixtures in cities across Canada and the United States, plans to dual-list its shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange and in the U.S., although it has not selected an American exchange yet. GFL has hired a syndicate of investment banks to advise on the offering, with Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal doing the Canadian side of the deal and J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. handling the U.S.
GFL gained prominence in 2011 when it won a $186-million garbage contract with the City of Toronto, part of then-mayor Rob Ford’s promise to privatize garbage collection in the city. The company, which pulled back from an IPO two years ago, is pursuing one again amid a soaring equity market, with the Standard and Poor’s 500 closing at a record high Thursday. GFL will use the proceeds of the IPO to fund future growth plans, according to the source to whom The Globe and Mail granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the plans.
A spokesperson for GFL declined to comment on the possible IPO. If successful, it would be one of the largest IPOs for a Canadian company in recent years, topping the $1.83-billion IPO for Hydro One Ltd. in 2015, according to data from Bloomberg.
In late 2017, the company was working on a plan to list its shares in a $1-billion IPO. But those plans were scrapped in April, 2018, when the company instead recapitalized through a $5.1-billion deal involving several big name private equity funds, including London-based BC Partners and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.
Several months later, GFL launched its biggest-ever foray into the U.S. by acquiring North Carolina-based Waste Industries for $3.65-billion, including debt. It has completed more than 100 takeovers to date, rolling up companies in the waste management space.
The company currently has annual revenue of roughly $3.5-billion and posted $1-billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), according to the source. After the IPO, GFL would have a long-term debt-to-EBITDA multiple in the low fours.
In addition to the Waste Industries acquisition, the company has made several other deals over the past year, particularly in the U.S. According to a source, the company and its investment banks are hoping for a premium valuation for the company based on GFL’s strong revenue growth rate and the belief that garbage disposal is an industry that is resilient to economic shocks.
In the 12 years since launching the company, Patrick Dovigi, GFL’s 39-year-old founder and CEO, has grown it through a rapid-fire series of acquisitions to become one of the largest waste management businesses in North America.
Mr. Dovigi took a winding road to the waste management business. Born in Sault Ste. Marie, he pursued a hockey career and was drafted as a goalie for the Edmonton Oilers but never played for the team. After graduating with a business degree from Toronto’s Ryerson University, he joined a small merchant bank and worked with Kiss frontman Gene Simmons on an entertainment startup that went bust.
He learned about the garbage business after taking a management position at a waste transfer station in Maple, Ont. for 2½ years.
“I got into the waste disposal business by accident,” Mr. Dovigi told The Globe in 2011. “I was working in corporate finance and one of our investments included a transfer station in Maple, which needed someone to manage the site, clean it up and reopen it.”
After a fallout with his business partner there, Mr. Dovigi took the knowledge and contacts he’d gathered and raised financing to launch GFL, which stands for “green for life,” through the merger of several Ontario environmental services firms.
Over the next few years GFL made many other acquisitions, giving it a footing in cities such as Hamilton, Pickering, Ont., and Winnipeg.
With its profile rising, the company continued its acquisition spree. With 9,000 employees across Canada and in 20 U.S. states, it collects waste from four million households.
It is expected to submit confidential paperwork for its public offering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the coming days, and is set to file with Canadian regulators next month.
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