After more than a year of takeover speculation, parcel carrier TNT Express is in play.
The Dutch delivery firm said Friday that it rejected a $6.4 billion all-cash buyout offer from UPS Inc., but added that talks between the two are ongoing. The UPS proposal represents a 43-percent premium over TNT's Friday closing price in European trading.
The deal, if consummated, would be UPS's biggest acquisition in its 105-year history.
On Jan. 1, 2011, TNT Express's parent separated the express and mail operations. The move, which had been telegraphed several months before, allowed the parent to exit the express business and focus exclusively on its mail operations.
The transaction triggered speculation that TNT Express would be the subject of a bidding war among FedEx Corp., UPS, and DHL Express. FedEx and UPS seemed to be the most likely acquirers, as TNT Express's strong intra-European delivery operations would help strengthen their competitive positions against DHL, considered the market leader in Europe.
TNT Express also has a solid intercontinental business linked to Europe but virtually no presence in the United States.
FedEx, which could benefit the most because it is considered to have the shallowest presence in Europe, has been decidedly cool toward TNT Express. Nearly a year ago, FedEx CFO Alan B. Graf Jr. told an investor's conference that the business was too expensive for FedEx to make a bid.