K+N expands Asian air freight footprint with Apex takeover

K+N expands Asian air freight footprint with Apex takeover

Chinese forwarder Apex will boost the K+N logistics network in Asia once its takeover has been approved by regulators. Photo credit: K+N.

Kuehne + Nagel (K+N) has signed a binding agreement to acquire China-based air freight specialist Apex International Corp., significantly expanding the Switzerland-based forwarder’s Asian logistics footprint in its largest-ever takeover.

The acquisition is the latest in a series of mergers and acquisitions in the highly fragmented international forwarding sector. Financial terms were not disclosed by K+N or South Korean private equity firm MBK Partners, the parent of Apex, but media reports put the value of Apex at more than $1.5 billion.

Apex reported annual revenues of $2.34 billion in 2020 and will bring into K+N a company that last year shipped 750,000 tons of air freight and 190,000 TEU of ocean cargo.

K+N has made it a priority to strengthen its presence in the region, and the acquisition of Apex will secure access to both Asia Pacific customers and regional distribution networks.

“The combination of Apex and Kuehne + Nagel provides us with an opportunity to offer our customers a compelling proposition in the competitive Asian logistics industry, especially in e-commerce fulfilment, hi-tech, and e-mobility,” Detlef Trefzger, CEO of Kuehne + Nagel International, said in a statement Monday.

The deal is still subject to merger clearance by relevant competition authorities, but once it has been finalized, Apex will continue to operate separately within the Kuehne + Nagel Group.

Forwarding M&A frenzy

A fierce battle for e-commerce distribution networks in Asia is under way as forwarders consolidate to secure access to a market that has exploded through the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier in February, Chinese express logistics provider SF Holdings announced it was acquiring a majority stake in Hong-Kong based Kerry Logistics for $2.3 billion in a move to both grow its regional presence, and expand its international footprint.

In 2016, Kerry Logistics acquired 51 percent of San Francisco-based Apex Maritime, one of the top three Asia-U.S. non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOs). There is no relation between the former Apex Maritime/Kerry Apex and Apex International Corp.

Joerg Wolle, chairman of the board at Kuehne + Nagel International, said the forwarder has made it a priority to accelerate its growth and its impact across Asia.

“Asia Pacific has consistently proven to be one of the most important drivers of global trade,” he said in the statement. “The acquisition of Apex is a further important cornerstone in our strategy and significant fulfilment of the group’s Asia Pacific ambition.”

In other recent mergers and acquisitions, private equity firm Ridgemont Equity Partners purchased a majority stake in global forwarder SEKO Logistics in January for an undisclosed sum. Also in January, forwarder JAS Worldwide acquired supply chain service provider Tigers to expand its e-commerce capabilities, while late last year international freight forwarder AIT Worldwide Logistics made a pair of e-commerce acquisitions, buying Fiege Forwarding from Germany-based parent company FIEGE Group in December after it took over UK-based Panther Logistics in November.

Rhenus Air and Ocean announced last week it will acquire the forwarding business of BLG Logistics to expand into new markets and consolidate its international ocean freight and air cargo volume passing through the company’s German gateways.

Contact Greg Knowler at greg.knowler@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.