Transport and Logistics providers use M&A to drive growth and earnings

The European M&A market in the Transport & Logistics (T&L) sector continues to be driven by consolidation across all market segments – to drive efficiencies, expand geographic coverage and to differentiate through complementary capabilities. Several strategic players are using M&A to expand their presence in the supply chain (vertical integration), in order to provide ‘one-stop-shops’ and end-to-end solutions for their customers. Private Equity (PE) firms’ appetite for acquisitions is increasing; these financial investors are focusing on high growth niche segments and underperforming businesses that require modernization and a strategic rethink.

Key insights:
  • Total deal volumes in the European T&L sector are rising, driven by activity within logistics infrastructure and logistics services, while M&A activity within logistics execution remains high and stable.
  • The logistics execution (52%) and logistics services (34%) segments account for the main share of the European M&A activity within T&L. Most active sub-segments are 1) road transport, 2) freight forwarding and 3) contract logistics
  • Players across all segments are using technology to add value and improve efficiencies. Technological and digital capabilities are expected to be an important M&A driver in the future, highlighted by the large increase in logistics-related tech investments.
  • We have seen a couple of headline deals within freight forwarding over the last two years: 1) CMA CGM’s (FRA) takeover of Ceva Logistics (CH) in 2018 (c. € 3.7bn in EV) and 2) DSV’s (DK) acquisition of Panalpina (CH) in 2019 (c. € 4.7bn in EV). However, other strategic buyers focus on a larger number of mid-market targets when making acquisitions.
  • Listed valuations of European players vary across the logistics infrastructure, logistics execution and logistics services segments. Over the last decade, NTM EBITDA multiples of logistics services companies (contract logistics and freight forwarding) have increased significantly from c. 8.3x to c. 12.5x, while logistics infra-structure (c. 7.7x) and logistics execution (c. 6.0x) businesses are trading close to their 10-year averages.

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