A survey of the merger and acquisition activity undertaken by major European logistics operators over the last six years shows that volumes dropped dramatically in 2002, back to levels last seen in 1998. In its report, ‘Consolidation 2003: acquisition strategies in the European logistics industry’, market analysis company Transport Intelligence reveals that worldwide acquisition activity by the major European logistics players almost halved compared with the previous year.
John Manners-Bell, lead analyst at Transport Intelligence, comments: ‘The slowdown in the volume of acquisition activity by the leading European logistics players in 2002 can be put down to a number of factors. The major postal operators such as Deutsche Post and TPG, which have been amongst the most acquisitive in recent years, are nearing the completion of their European M&A programmes. Parcels and logistics networks are largely in place. Other key buyers such as ABX logistics, Thiel Logistik and D.Logistics have been forced to re-focus their attention internally as they seek to integrate their acquisitions at a time when revenues and profits are falling.’
The survey shows that European companies are now turning their attention to bolt-on deals which give them presence in the North American and Asia Pacific Rim markets. Whereas acquisitions made outside Europe accounted for only 17 per cent of deals in 1997, the proportion had risen to almost 43 per cent in 2002.
Manners-Bell adds, ‘Although much of the activity in the parcels industry has come to an end, there is still considerable scope for consolidation in the freight forwarding and logistics segments.
‘Once the European, and specifically the German, economy recovers, there is likely to be a major increase in acquisition activity. This will be accompanied by continuing growth in deals closed outside of the region.’