DP World has announced the 100% acquisition of Aarhus, Denmark-based Unifeeder group, Europe’s biggest feeder operator and with a growing shortsea presence, for €660M from Nordic Capital Fund VIII and minority shareholders. Unifeeder says there are no expected changes to its relationship with customers and vendors as a result
The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and expected earnings accretive in the first full year after completion. It will be financed from DP World’s existing balance sheet resources and is expected to close in Q4 2018. Unifeeder reported revenue of €510M in 2017 and EBIT margins in line with other asset-light logistics operators.
Traditionally associated with feeder connections, Unifeeder is building its presence in the European shortsea market with palletwide high-cube 45ft containers. Only last week it announced a new service linking Antwerp and Dunkirk with Teesport and Grangemouth.
DP World stated: "The acquisition of Unifeeder will further enhance DP World’s presence in the global supply chain and broaden our product offering to our customers - the shipping lines and cargo owners - with a view to reduce inefficiencies and improve the competitiveness of global trade. The current operations of Unifeeder are complementary to DP World’s existing business and provide future growth opportunities."
Jesper Kristensen, CEO, Unifeeder A/S, stated: "Unifeeder has enjoyed great success over the last five years under Nordic Capital’s ownership and this transaction is an excellent opportunity for our customers, vendors and Unifeeder going forward. Unifeeder and DP World both share the vision of establishing customer-centric solutions with high focus on operational efficiencies and modern, digitalized interactions externally as well as internally.
"Under our new ownership, we will continue to develop and expand the Unifeeder brands further and beyond present geographies and products. Unifeeder will continue to operate on a fully independent, multi-user basis under its current existing management, and expects to see additional growth as a consequence of the transaction.
"Unifeeder remains focused on building "best in class" services, coverage and connectivities. Unifeeder’s increased outreach and international scope, will facilitate that we can serve our clients even more broadly and with even more scale and competitiveness. Hence, together with our new owner, Unifeeder will strive to further improve our offering and further optimize the transshipment markets and the supply chains in Europe and beyond - to the benefit of our clients in particular and the cargo in general.
"Once the transaction has been completed, Unifeeder will become part of the DP World family and will continue to operate as an independent autonomous brand under the DP World Group umbrella.
"There are no expected changes to our relationship with customers and vendors as a result.
"For the avoidance of doubt, the transaction will not be completed until customary regulatory approvals are received."
The industry is used to shipping lines buying container terminals, but not the other way around. Let’s not forget, however, that DP World already owns P&O European Ferries and Ferrymasters, so it already has a substantial stake in the ferries, shortsea and multimodal logistics market. By adding a lo-lo container logistics specialist to this armoury, it further increases its appeal in the European multimodal market.
Customers may need to be assured that feeder services remain strictly neutral, but as far as intra-European trades are concerned, this could be a smart move by DP World, given the social and environmental pressures on long-distance road haulage.