Who owns the logistics industry? On the face of it, that might seem a bizarre question, but stay with me for a moment because even a superficial survey reveals changing patterns of investment around Europe.
The offer by Laxey Partners for TDG announced on Friday will remove yet another major logistics company from the London Stock Exchange.
Only a few years ago, a host of UK logistics operators were either public limited companies in their own right or major divisions of other quoted companies – these included P&O, Securicor, Hays, Christian Salvesen, Exel, TDG, Tibbett & Britten. Now there is just Wincanton flying the flag for logistics on the LSE.
The Dutch post office, which was privatised in the mid-1990s, found itself owner of a large logistics business when it bought TNT in 1996. But, by 2006, the group had decided that the returns were better from express and sold its logistics operation, since renamed Ceva, to a private equity house.
(In the United States, the NYSE might be the accepted route to market, but the mighty UPS remains a staunch advocate of the employee stock ownership scheme which it first started operating back in 1927.)
Germany has, famously, seen a huge buy-in to logistics from the public sector with both the post office and the railways investing heavily in the business. However, the German government has been progressively selling off its shareholding in Deutsche Post, owner of DHL Logistics. And, since last autumn, DPWN has been developing its “Roadmap to value” programme to improve returns to investors.
In May this year, a deal was announced to sell a 25 per cent stake in Deutsche Bahn, which owns the Schenkers business, to private investors. It will be instructive to see what impact that has on the strategy of the group.
While attitudes to third party logistics might vary among investors around the Europe, one thing never changes – the investors’ desire to see a higher level of return on their investments. That is going to continue to drive structural change in the market for some time to come.