Financial Deals in Transportation Sector: Shipping and Aviation Dominating

Logistics sector in BRIC and Middle East/Africa regions seeing significant private investments, with higher capital infusion in freight management and capacity expected ahead


London — June 20, 2008 — The transportation and logistics (T&L) sector in the Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) and Middle East and African (MEA) markets is witnessing significant private investments in 2008, and the sector is likely to experience much higher capital infusion in freight management companies and capacity during the second half of the year, according to independent market analyst Datamonitor's latest research.

The analysis, "Transportation and Logistics Financial Deals Insights," predicts that the cost savings rationale for mergers and acquisition (M&A) deals, particularly by strategic investors, can only increase in the remainder of 2008; albeit with lower valuation multiples compared to those in 2007.

Financial market trends during 2007, including the tightening of credit and the weakening of the U.S. dollar, bolstered the relative deal-making positions of strategic and foreign investors in the first quarter of 2008. As of June 2008, there are concerns that the U.S. economy is heading into or is in a recession, says Datamonitor automotive and logistics lead analyst and report author Praveen Ojha.

"This will only increase the number of players in the transportation business up for sale as a potential contraction in economic output will negatively impact demand for transportation and logistics products and services, as well as shippers' profits during the rest of 2008," he says.

Shipping and Aviation Dominate Deals

Several themes emerge when examining deals announced during the first quarter of 2008, according to Datamonitor.

First, interest in Western European targets has been high. Second, consolidation of the transportation and logistics sector within China has been a primary driver of BRIC deal volume. Third, deals for shipping and aviation targets have contributed significantly to overall deal value in Q1 2008, as was the case in the second half of 2007. Finally, the tightening of credit markets during 2007 did negatively impact the number of financial deals during the quarter, but the total M&A investment values actually shot up, Ojha says.

"Driven by volatility in capital markets, public offerings and private placements both declined in value and volume terms in Q1 2008," the analyst explains. "Valuation in the T&L sector remained low due to the slowdown in economic activity and high oil prices globally. Overall, increasing scale and adding capabilities remained the key drivers for T&L Financial deals in the first quarter," he says.

In Q1 2008, M&A activity in the T&L sector was driven by consolidation in the marine transportation segment, particularly focused on the container shipping and dry bulk segments. Private equity and strategic investments in the marine infrastructure segment remained high, supported by increasing demand for marine transportation.

The Power of Petrodollars

The financial strength of Middle Eastern petrodollars was clearly visible in Q1 2008, with Dubai Drydocks acquiring Singapore-based Labroy Marine for $1.1 billion. "Its parent, Dubai World, has long been on a global shopping spree," Ojha says, "snapping up huge stakes in ports, airlines, office buildings and casinos, mostly in the developed world."

The acquisition is Dubai Drydocks' second in Singapore after its successful bid of $424 million for a 70 percent stake in shipyard operator Pan-United Marine. The firm has since lifted its stake in Pan-United above 90 percent and taken it private.

Demand for rigs and vessels required to drill offshore oilfields has increased in recent years thanks to soaring crude oil prices, which have hit record highs this year.

Bulk and Container Shipping

Despite the fact that bulk-shipping rates have slumped almost 50 percent from a record in November 2007, amid delays in annual price talks between Chinese steelmakers and iron-ore producers and concern that the U.S. and Chinese economies are slowing, the wave of consolidation has continued into 2008.

Bermuda-based Excel Maritime Carriers, owner and operator of dry bulk carriers and a provider of seaborne transportation services for dry bulk cargo, acquired its larger rival, Greece-based Quintana Maritime, a provider of dry bulk marine transportation services, for approximately $2.4 billion. The purchase will make the combined entity the fourth largest Panamax-size carrier company in the world. Quintana specializes in long-term charters while Excel has booked more on the spot market with short-term contracts, Ojha says.

"The purchase could trigger other acquisitions within the industry and one can foresee continued consolidation as public companies continue to buy private assets. Dry-bulk companies have benefited by strong commodity demand from China and India, among other countries," he says.

In another major transaction in Q1 2008, U.S.-based Marathon Acquisition, a blank check company, agreed to acquire for $1 billion a 66 percent stake in Global Ship Lease, a subsidiary of CMA CGM S.A. of France, the world's largest container shipping company.

Marathon's upfront cash payment will enable Global Ship Lease to expand its fleet, and the cash proceeds from warrant exercises are expected to provide built-in financing for future fleet growth, Ojha says. "This transaction will leave Marathon well-positioned to capitalize on growth in global trade and positive trends in the container shipping industry."

Global Ship Lease's contracted revenues and relatively fixed expenses, and lack of dependence on the U.S. economy will provide Marathon with an attractive opportunity to exploit the global container shipping demand.

The container shipping industry is the fastest growing sector of international shipping, showing an average annual volume increase of more than 10 percent per year since the early 1990s. Going forward, as a result of growing world trade, increasing global sourcing and manufacturing and continuing penetration of the general cargo market, the industry is estimated to maintain a 10-11 percent growth rate till 2012.

In one of the key deals of 2008, which highlights the attractiveness of the sector, CapMan, an alternative asset manager in the Nordic countries, acquired a 65 percent stake in Norway-based Cargo Partner Group, a company formed through the merger of T&L services providers Globex, Cargo Partner and STS.

GE Transportation Finance, a provider of finance to the international T&L sectors, agreed to acquire a 32 percent stake in Hammonia Reederei, a Germany-based operator of container carriers and dry bulk ships. The investment in Hammonia would give GE Transportation Finance exposure to the fast-growing container shipping segment.

Looking Forward

Compared to the second half of 2007, with financial deals in other parts of the world drying up in Q1 2008 because of the credit crunch, the BRIC and MEA markets are witnessing the introduction of significant private investments. These developing markets are likely to experience much higher investments in freight management companies and capacity during the rest of 2008, Ojha says.

"Driven by the strong outbound demand for sea freight and air freight services from the Asia-Pacific, parts of Latin America and the MEA region, private equity funds and firms are turning their attention to both mid-size carriers (in shipping and aviation) as well as participation in port infrastructure development," the analyst says, concluding, "After several strong growth years in bulk and containerized shipping, substantial war chests have been developed for mergers and acquisitions and this will only strengthen the consolidation wave in the remainder of 2008."

Datamonitor's quarterly "Transportation and Logistics Financial Deals Insights," provides an assessment of recent M&A activity in the transport and logistics sector throughout the world. The report offers insight into deal activity, deal rationale and the market fundamentals driving the sector. It also evaluates the trends within the transport and logistics sector as a whole, as well as individual deals.

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