FedEx to Buy TNT for $4.8 Billion

FedEx-TNT logoPurchase of Dutch parcel-delivery firm would
allow U.S. rival to expand in Europe

  • Antitrust Issues Remain in the EU
  • Fewer Choices for Shippers
  • DHL’s EU lobbying power remains a factor
In a widely anticipated move, plans for FedEx to buy TNT were announced last Thursday by the Memphis based delivery giant. The deal has been valued at $4.8 billion. If FedEx is able successfully acquire Netherlands-based TNT-NV, a provider of mail and courier services and the fourth largest global parcel operator, it could have major implications for the global express delivery and parcel sectors.

This is not the first time TNT has been the target of an acquisition by industry players. In 2012, it was close to being acquired by FedEx’ chief rival, UPS for $6.8 billion, but the deal was derailed when the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, prohibited the acquisition. Many of the EC’s concerns over the deal were due to the competitive parcel landscape in Europe.

The deal is expected to be made official during the first half of 2016, with FedEx agreeing to pay TNT $200 million in the form of a breakup fee should the deal not come to fruition. As for any antitrust issues that may arise from this deal, FedEx and TNT said that these concerns can be addressed in an adequate and timely manner.

“We believe that this strategic acquisition will add significant value for FedEx shareowners, team members and customers around the globe,” said Frederick W. Smith, Chairman and CEO of FedEx, in a statement. “This transaction allows us to quickly broaden our portfolio of international transportation solutions to take advantage of market trends – especially the continuing growth of global e-commerce – and positions FedEx for greater long-term profitable growth.”

FedEx and TNT cited various strategic benefits of this deal, including:

  1. The combined companies being a strong global competitor in the transportation and logistics industry, drawing on the considerable and complementary strengths of each other;
  2. The combined companies’ customers would enjoy access to a considerably enhanced, integrated global network, which would benefit from the combined strength of TNT Express strong European road platform and Liege hub and FedEx’s strength in other regions globally, including North America and Asia; and
  3. FedEx will strengthen TNT Express with investment capacity, sector expertise and global scope, among others
As part of the conditions of the deal, TNT Express’ airline operations will be divested in compliance with applicable airline ownership regulations.

A Wall Street Journal report explained that this deal makes sense for multiple reasons, given that the European delivery market is making steady gains due to continued expansion following the rollout of a single currency, and the ongoing proliferation of e-commerce, coupled with Europe being a hard market for foreign entities to get into, as many people live in inaccessible apartment buildings and each nation has its own rules and competitors.

However, from a shipper’s standpoint, the deal will mean fewer parcel delivery choices and potentially higher prices in the Eurozone, as FedEx, UPS and DHL become the last major competitors on the continent.

Dave Bronczek, FedEx Express president and CEO, said in the report that this deal can augment how FedEx operates in Europe, with TNT’s vast footprint there, as well as FedEx hoping to leverage the increasing global reach of e-commerce. Per their joint press release, The European regional headquarters of the combined companies will be in Amsterdam/Hoofddorp, and the TNT Express hub in Liege will be maintained as a significant operation of the group.

TNT has grown into a highly respected $6.680 billion euro company with diverse revenue streams from around the world with operations in more than 200 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America. However, they have long been relegated to “also ran” status in the U.S. domestic market. The company has a substantial group of assets, including aircraft, vehicles, hubs, and depots, which cumulatively account for about 1 million deliveries per day handled by its nearly 80,000 employees.

Jerry Hempstead, the principal of Orlando, Fla.-based Hempstead Consulting, said that most observers have long anticipated the acquisition of TNT by FedEx, ever since UPS failed in its attempt to take over TNT. “TNT has been trying to get itself sold for years ever since it split its mail group from its express group in 2010,” he noted. “Against the ever-expanding market shares of DHL, UPS and FedEx, TNT has struggled. They have done a great job in recovering from the loss of momentum, however, that was the result of the prolonged legal battle waged over the UPS offer. In the end, I don’t believe UPS fully understood the lobbying power DHL has with the EU that put a kibosh on the takeover based on anti-competitive reasons.”As for the prospects of a successful FedEx-TNT deal, he said the Fedex offer is far more likely to pass such scrutiny and will now put FedEx in a greater competitive position in Europe.

“To me it has not been ‘if’ TNT would be sold to UPS but ‘when’ and at what price,” he explained. “FedEx will get TNT at a discount over the UPS offer of 2012 if they are successful. This is a great acquisition for FedEx who has proven in the past that they can make very successful acquisitions and have them work. Flying Tigers, RPS, Parcel Direct all come to mind as acquisitions that were risky but have paid off handsomely over the years. Don’t underestimate the ability to throw obstacles in the way of this acquisition just as FedEx and UPS tried to scuttle the DHL acquisition of Airborne in 2003. Some people have long memories and are students of history. Unlike the Airborne deal this is not a matter of flights nor should it be about market share domination. This is real synergy I think between two like businesses.”

Editors Note: contributed to this post.


Changing Freight Forwarders – Top 10 Signs That It Is Time To Switch

Change AheadLet’s face it, changing freight forwarders can be a real hassle. It takes time and effort to find a good one and training them on your company’s procedures and service requirements is like house-breaking a new puppy. Who has time for it? Moreover, choose poorly and it can have a huge negative impact your company and your future career prospects.

In this article, we take a quick look at the top 10 warning signs that may suggest that it is time to take the plunge and find a new logistics partner.

As with many vendors, relationships were formed years ago, you know all of their key personnel, who to call for favors and how to reach someone in management on Sunday at 11:00pm when that big shipment you desperately need didn’t show up overseas when it was supposed to. That’s hard to give up.  Consequently, shippers endure shoddy customer service, non-competitive pricing and repeated service failures rather than risk change. It’s a common blunder.

So when is it time to pull the trigger and make a switch? Here’s a few tell-tale signs:

1. Customer Service Lacking: I have always preached to our customer service team that they are the only thing that sets us apart front the competition. We don’t know about any secret airlines that no other forwarder has access to, or truck carriers that nobody else has discovered yet. If your current forwarder isn’t giving you the level of professionalism and personalized service that you want, don’t stand for it. Freight forwarding is a customer service based business built on personal relationships. Don’t settle for a forwarder that is unprofessional or indifferent to your business.

2. Your Business Has Changed:  Business grow. Needs evolve.  If you have recently expanded your market or product offerings, you may have outgrown the capabilities of your local forwarder. Not all forwarders are alike. Some specialize in air only. Some are exclusively domestic. Others are primarily truck brokers. Make sure that you have partnered with a full-service logistics company that provides a complete range of services that matches your company’s growth plans.

3. Antiquated Technology: The world of business information systems has changed dramatically in the past 10 years and like most industries, the freight forwarding industry has changed with it. If your forwarder has a stale, 1990’s era Web site, or worse, no Web site at all, it may be time to consider a change. It may be a case of insufficient capitalization, or lack of vision by management. In either case, online tracking and proof of delivery are now considered mandatory by most shippers. In addition, most tech savvy forwarders offer online quote requests,  electronic proof of deliver (POD’s) and electronic billing. If you are have to call your forwarder to request a fax of a delivery receipt, you need to evaluate your options.

[Read more…]

West Coast Port Congestion Update: Conditions Deteriorate

Crane Operator

Crane operator in the Port of Long Beach, CA (Source: Journal of Commerce)

As the new year dawned a few weeks ago, we had hoped that it would bring good news in the form of a resolution to the nation’s West Coast port congestion woes. Sadly, such was not the case. The standstill at the nation’s West Coast ports drags on, with no end in sight.  By all accounts, the near gridlock situation is beginning to take a toll on the nation’s quickly rebounding economy.  Meanwhile, business owners fume, logistics companies scramble to find alternatives and government mediators accomplish little.

So what is the cause of this on-going transportation Armageddon? Let’s take a quick look. Some would place the blame on a truck chassis shortage. Others point to new, super-sized ships from Asia and the inability of the aging infrastructure at the nation’s ports to handle them. Some say too many truckers have exited the business due to low pay and increasingly expensive vehicle regulations. All of the above contribute to the problem, but it’s much simpler than that.

It’s a prolonged and bitter labor dispute.

The Longshoreman’s Union (ILWU) has been without a contract since last summer. The port operators, known as the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), have refused to capitulate to the union’s demands of increased wages, increased health benefits, reduced automation and expanded authority over work rules. In short, it has devolved into a protracted war of attrition. Both sides have dug their trenches and hardened their intractable positions, with little regard for the harm they are doing to businesses or the nation’s economic recovery.

So why has it gotten so much worse the last 60 days?

Since November, the ILWU has begun “hard-timing” the ports and under-manning them. That’s union-speak for a work slow down. Unions are refusing to send enough skilled labor to operate the port’s cranes, leaving many of them idle as ships sit anchored off-shore waiting to be unloaded.  The workers that are reporting for duty are operating as slowly as possible, while still technically complying with their expired contract.  The PMA reports that worker productivity has dropped from an average of 28 containers moved by each crane per hour to 20. That’s a decrease of nearly 30%. What’s worse, the PMA reported that in early November the ILWU locals informed them that the number of yard crane operators the union would dispatch each day would decrease from 110 to 35. Horrendous delays and gridlock resulted immediately.

In response, the PMA, which is incurring huge expenses because of plunging productivity, has been attempting to cut back on labor costs wherever possible. For example, terminal operators stopped night gate (second shift) operations in Seattle and Tacoma several weeks ago, and in Oakland during the past two weeks. The unions howled.

Cargo Ships off Long BEach

Cargo ships off the coast waiting to unload their goods in the Port of Long Beach. (Source: Los Angeles Daily News)

Steamship lines are taking huge losses as a result of the strife, as well.  With the unloading of arriving vessels having slowed to a crawl, many ships are forced to anchor idly offshore for 7-10 days until a berth opens up. While they sit, their losses mount. Consequently, outbound shipping schedules are a shambles, as nothing is arriving on time. In an attempt to defray some of their losses, carriers have begun to assess importers with a Port Congestion Fee of up to $1,000 per container.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world looks on and shakes it’s head as the reliability and reputation of the West Coast’s ports erodes daily. It’s a black eye for the country.

Where will it all end? It’s anyone’s guess at this point.

Who are the big losers in this playground spat gone global?  Certainly the two combatants and the vessel owners are. Businesses, even more so. However, in the end, the answer is that we all lose.

(The Journal Of Commerce contributed to this post.)


Port Congestion Surcharge In Effect

Ships Off Long Beach

Ships anchored off of Long Beach, CA waiting to unload (Source: L.A. Times)

Due to ongoing port congestion issues on the West Coast, particularly the Ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach, ocean carriers are now implementing a Port Congestion Surcharge on all imports.  This surcharge is effective immediately. Please see a recent L.A. Times article relating to this matter, if you are unfamiliar with the situation.

Per tariff filings with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the Port Congestion Surcharge will be $1,000 per FEU, “effective for all import cargo discharging at U.S. West Coast ports on or after November 17.”

An “FEU” is ocean-speak for a full, 40′ container.

Surcharges are as follows:

  • $800 per 20′
  • $1,000 per 40′
  • $1,125 per 40’HC
  • $1,266 per 45’HC

All carriers including, but not limited to, Hanjin, CMA CGM, Hyundai, Yang Ming, Evergreen and NYK are putting this surcharge in effect. Some of these surcharges were filed with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) as far back as two years ago in case of any severe service disruptions along the East, West Coast or Gulf Coast ports.

Here are links to a few official carrier announcements:

This unprecedented decision by carriers stems from carrier argument that they are incurring huge operating losses while their ships sit idly, anchored offshore waiting to be unloaded. In some cases, the delay to be unloaded has recently been 7-10 days in some cases.

In response, some carriers have even been cancelling sailings and/or re-routing vessels to alternate ports.

As if things weren’t tough enough on importers, there is now also a strong possibility of some type of a work stoppage in the near future by the ILWU (longshoreman’s union), as their contract negotiations from this past summer appear to have stalled and reached a critical juncture.

We understand how this major event affects your cost of doing business. It affects us adversely as well..

We will continue to monitor this situation very closely. Any mitigation of this surcharge will immediately be passed on to you.

Note that there is a similar, though much small surcharge in place on exports as well.

Have questions or need to know more? Please contact a Customer Service Representative for more information. We’re here to help.