Fifteen years ago, as the world partied because it was 1999, the average stock analyst following logistics companies on the London Stock Exchange (‘LSE’) had some choice. In the Support Services, Shipping or Transportation sectors (or whatever they were at the time) there were at least the following players (in alphabetical order):
- BOC (logistics business BOC Distribution Services became Gist in 2001)
- Christian Salvesen
- Hays (Hays Logistics)
- NFC (including Exel Logistics)
- Ocean Group (MSAS and McGregor Cory)
- Tibbett and Britten
- Transport Development Group
- Unigate (Wincanton)
This collection of operators considered themselves to be amongst the global industry’s leaders.
Depending on ones definition of logistics, one could throw P&O and Bibby in the mix too.
The logistics industry has flourished on the globalisation phenomenon and this has surely contributed to the consolidation the industry has witnessed. And that consolidation has affected the UK logistics industry more than most.
So what happened to the UK’s players?
Where are they now?
- BOC – acquired by Linde 2006
- Christian Salvesen – acquired in 2007 by Norbert Dentressangle
- Hays (Hays Logistics) – Hays Logistics spun off as ACR 2004 to Platinum Equity Group; acquired by Kuehne + Nagel 2005
- NFC (including Exel Logistics) – merged with Ocean Group 2000 to form Exel
- Ocean Group (MSAS and McGregor Cory) – merged with NFC to become Exel 2000; acquired by Deutsche Post 2005
- Tibbett and Britten – acquired by Exel 2004
- Transport Development Group – acquired by Laxey Investment Trust 2008; sold to Norbert Dentressangle 2010
- Unigate (Wincanton) – Wincanton spun off 2001; still independent
So of the eight businesses in our 1999 list (to some extent of course an arbitrary selection), four (BOC/Gist, NFC, Ocean Group and Tibbett and Britten) are now in German hands, two (Christian Salvesen and TDG) are French-owned and one (Hays Logistics/ACR) is Swiss, leaving a solitary remaining independent British player, Wincanton.
Of course the nationality of the ultimate holding company might not mean anything (witness how Jaguar Land Rover has thrived under Indian ownership), but a group does not need two head offices, so one suspects that Bracknell and Windlesham have suffered and when push comes to shove decisions are made in Bonn. Munich, Saint-Vallier or Schindellegi. It probably does not reflect a diminution in British influence, but both the new DHL Supply Chain CEO and the post’s previous holder came from Exel in the US.
And who’s around now?
The Motor Transport Top 100 is a useful if flawed summary of the UK industry and that reveals the growth of parcels operators. A significant new entrant to the quoted ranks is Royal Mail and Wincanton has been joined on the LSE by Eddie Stobart (in 2007) and Clipper Logistics (June 2014).
And that’s your lot. A somewhat different picture to that at the end of the last century.