The value of global transportation and logistics deal-making activity through the first nine months of 2015 hit its highest level since the comparable period in 2006 despite a decline in third-quarter value and volume over the 2014 period, according to a quarterly report issued today by the U.S. arm of consultancy PwC.
The report said that year-to-date merger and acquisition volume was in line with activity reported in recent years, and the consultancy said it expects a strong fourth quarter to round out what will be, on balance, a good year for global M&A in the trade.
There were 44 announced transactions worth $50 million or more in the third quarter, for a total value of $28.8 billion. That's a 30-percent sequential drop in volume and 27 -percent decline in value, according to the report. Volumes declined 28 percent year-over-year, but transactional value climbed 36 percent as acquirers paid up for assets.
Year-to-date, total deal value and average deal value increased more than 40 percent and 50 percent, respectively, from the year-earlier period, according to the report. The value of all deals in the quarter hit $97.1 billion, PwC U.S. said.
Jonathan Kletzel, U.S. transportation and logistics leader for PwC, said volumes fell off in the third quarter after a strong first half. Kletzel shrugged off the weakness, and said M&A is poised for a strong end to 2015. Acquiring firms keep their powder dry in the third quarter before re-entering the fray at year-end, prior PwC reports have shown. "Historically, the fourth quarter has been a popular time for M&A activity as strategic investors prepare for the next year's operations, and we believe the M&A environment will likely see increased activity," he said in a statement. "At the same time, in order to capitalize on growth, transportation executives remain focused on strengthening their core business operations and expanding in high-growth markets."
Six deals of more than $1 billion each in the third quarter accounted for 63 percent of the total deal value in the period, according to the report. Similar to prior quarters, cross-border expansion was a key driver, particularly in developed economies. Fifty-five percent of advanced economies involved transnational activity. So-called strategic investors looking to build global transportation networks and expand operations were involved in 48 percent of all cross-border deals for the quarter. Strategic investors also accounted for 52 percent of overall deal activity for the quarter.
According to PwC, logistics transactions accounted for nearly one-quarter of all deal volume in the quarter. Kletzel said the logistics M&A market will remain active, as more businesses outsource logistics functions and providers look to gain scale and geographic reach. Further bolstering the trend are the large pool of available capital at historically low interest rates and the interest of private-equity firms in acquiring logistics firms, which have long demonstrated an ability to post double-digit annual margins.
According to data from consultancy Armstrong & Associates Inc., 2015 is already the largest year for deals of more than $100 million involving third-party logistics providers since the firm began tracking the numbers in 1999. Two of the most visible involved Greenwich, Conn.-based XPO Logistics Inc., which spent $6.5 billion in total to acquire French trucker and logistics firm Norbert Dentressangle S.A. in April and Ann Arbor, Mich.-based trucking and logistics firm Con-way-Inc. in a deal that closed on Friday.
Deals in the maritime and "related services" segments recorded a significant increase in the quarter, driving 34 percent of overall M&A volume, compared to 13 percent in the second quarter, the report said. These deals tended to be smaller, bolt-on acquisitions designed to increase efficiencies and build scale. Trucking deals also continued to see dealmaking activity, as smaller operators decided to cash out rather than invest in fleets and attempt to find increasingly scarce driver talent, according to the report.
The "Oceania" region was the busiest region in the quarter, accounting for more than half of the 44 major deals announced. Deals in China accounted for half of the 24 transactions in the region, PwC U.S. said.