They told us it would happen: in April 2012, advisory firm KPMG predicted a flurry of mergers and acquisitions in the logistics and distribution sector during the year… and that’s exactly what we got.
Top of the pile in terms of the most noteworthy was undoubtedly the UPS/TNT Express merger announced in March and set to create a £37bn turnover logistics giant. The takeover was described at the time by TNT Express chief executive Marie-Christine Lombard as a move that would create “the supplier and employer of choice in the express delivery industry”. At year-end, however, that supplier of choice had yet to fully emerge with the takeover still under review by the EC due to competition concerns until February.
Other moves took less time to complete, like Eddie Stobart’s acquisition of automotive logistics specialist Autologic, revealed in May and completed in August. The move added nearly £145m of turnover to Stobart but involved a certain irony for Autologic, which had itself been busy snapping up rivals in the automotive logistics market up to that point, including Sensible Transport and parts of Spirit Motortransport.
Other high-profile acquisitions during the year included that of ‘ugly’ goods specialist Nightfreight by mail and courier firm DX Group in March - a move creating a group with a combined turnover of £290m – and the two swift takeovers carried out in late August and early September by Turners (Soham) of container haulier Walker Transport Services and Browns Chilled Distribution.
Among the other notable moves during 2012 were courier CitySprint’s acquisition of the same-day activities of Thames-Valley based Scarlet Couriers; Pall-Ex’s buyout of Cornish network member Intercounty Distribution; and the Potter Group Logistics purchase of York logistics firm and Palletline member House of James.
Last but by no means least on our list of notable transfers was the move to purchase Tip-ex, the UK’s only exhibition for the tipper and bulk transport sector, from G&T Events by Commercial Motor and Motor Transport publisher Road Transport Media.
All of which just goes to underline that while many firms may be struggling under the weight of a flat economy, the market is still full of opportunity for those with the ambition and financing to buy up their rivals. What on earth, we wonder, will 2013 bring? Watch this space…