Freight forwarder Phoenix International exploring sale

Sat Jun 16, 2012 12:35am IST

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(Reuters) - Freight forwarder Phoenix International is exploring a sale that could fetch as much as $500 million from global logistics companies, several sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Europe-based Panalpina (PWTN.S) and Kuehne & Nagel (KNIN.VX), U.S. companies such as United Parcel Service (UPS.N) and C.H. Robinson (CHRW.O), and Australia's Toll Holdings (TOL.AX) could potentially be interested in privately held Phoenix for its international presence, the sources said.

"Phoenix has a wide appeal to any of the large international companies," one banker said.

Another source agreed that Phoenix is focused largely on strategic buyers, adding that "they have not really made a lot of rounds with the private equity community yet."

Chicago-based Phoenix, with revenue of $1 billion in 2011, is being advised by Republic Partners, according to the sources, who did not want to be identified as the sale process was private.

A Phoenix spokesman said the company does not comment on rumors. Republic Partners did not return calls seeking comment.

Phoenix's sale process is the latest in a string of deals involving logistics companies, especially those that do not own any trucks or ships of their own, and instead contract with owners of such assets for their transportation services.

This model, known in the industry as "non-asset based," is considered more healthy as it does not require huge capital investment. Bush-era capital tax policies set to expire at the end of the year are also making companies think of a sale sooner rather than later.

ATTRACTIVE VALUATION

Founded by Bill McInerney in 1979, Phoenix arranges shipments for customers via air and ocean. It has more than 2,000 employees in 74 offices worldwide and is owned by McInerney and other executives and employees of the company.

Phoenix's annual EBITDA is about $50 million, one of the sources said.

Deals in the logistics space have typically seen EBITDA multiples of between 9 and 11. At the midpoint of that range, Phoenix would be worth $500 million.

Recent deals include Panther Expedited Services's sale to Arkansas Best ABFS.O for $180 million.

Phoenix's larger peer BDP International is also in the process of raising capital through the sale of a minority stake, according to a BDP spokesman.

BDP, with annual revenue of $1.6 billion, is currently talking to three finalists, according to two other sources familiar with the talks.

"BDP is continuing to survey multiple potential investors interested in a purely financial relationship rather than an operational stake, and the process is going well," spokesman Arnie Bornstein told Reuters.

(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Bangalore; Editing by Anthony Kurian)

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