Pockets of deal activity drive logistics & supply chain transactions to two-year high

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M&A activity in the UK logistics and supply chain management sector has rebounded to 2021 levels, with renewed interest from international buyers and venture capital investors targeting early stage tech-enabled companies.

Mirroring levels seen in Q4 2021, 21 deals were completed between July and September. Notably, there was a ‘reawakening’ of investment appetite towards UK assets from international buyers, with significant deals involving key industry players including Super Group Limited, DSV A/S, and InPost SA. Meanwhile, almost 20% of transactions were venture capital investors targeting early stage tech-enabled companies servicing the sector.

According to a new report from accountancy and business advisory firm, BDO LLP, disclosed deal values increased during the third quarter of the year to £288 million – a rise of £232 million compared to the previous quarter. This was mainly attributable to the acquisition of Xpediator for £161 million by a consortium group consisting of BaltCap, Stephen Blyth and Justas Versnickas. However, total disclosed deal value is still down on levels seen in the last three years, with values similar to that of 2018/2019.

The UK M&A Update Q3 2023 – Logistics and Supply Chain Management also sounded a word of caution, with increased evidence of distress within the market. This included the acquisition of the trade and assets of Nelson Distribution by Kinaxia Logistics, the administrations of Selazar Ltd and Glasgow Car Movers Ltd, and more recently Mark Stewart Limited.

Jason Whitworth, M&A partner at BDO LLP, said: “Maybe surprisingly given the continued challenges in the economic environment, Q3 saw an increase in deal activity to a new two-year high. This was driven by a number of factors, including venture capital investors investing in tech, renewed activity from international buyers, which have more recently focussed on other ‘more attractive’ international growth markets, as well as increased evidence of distress.

“The latest edition of our UK Logistics Confidence Index showed that 40% of respondents were likely to make acquisitions over the next 12 months. Although lower than last year, it does confirm the industry’s continued appetite for consolidation. Interestingly, in the current market where margins are under pressure, it wasn’t scale, synergies or cost savings that were the leading reasons for wanting to transact, but expansion of service offering and entering new sectors.”

Whitworth added: “Valuation remains a pivotal concern in making deals happen. Uncertain, and potentially lower earnings, coupled with the higher cost of debt, means that there is more complexity in structuring deals that will meet both buyer and vendor expectations. However, with strategic demand and available capital remaining strong, we should start to see a drive in further deal activity.”

Q3 deals included Foresight Group’s acquisition of We Are Fulfilment Ltd and Amworld UK; Endless LLP’s acquisition of ASCO Group; and the sale of Portman Logistics to Challenge-trg Group.