Switzerland's Kuehne & Nagel buys Asian logistics firm Apex

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss logistics firm Kuehne & Nagel said on Monday it would buy Asian logistics provider Apex International Corp from private equity firm MBK Partners, its largest acquisition to date.

A person with direct knowledge of the transaction said the deal gave Apex an enterprise value of $1.5 billion to $2 billion and was expected to close in April after obtaining regulatory approvals.

The two firms, which did not disclose financial details of the transaction, declined to comment on the amount. The person declined to be identified due to confidentiality constraints.

The sale comes amid consolidation in the sector in Asia, especially China, sparked by an e-commerce boom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s S.F. Holding Co has offered to buy a 51.8% stake in Hong Kong-listed Kerry Logistics Networks Ltd, while South Korea’s CJ Logistics Corp has agreed to sell its China business to FountainVest Partners.

Apex, one of Asia’s leading air freight forwarders with about 1,600 employees, generates annual turnover of more than 2.1 billion Swiss francs ($2.34 billion), Kuehne & Nagel said.

Apex was founded in China and remains focused predominantly on the Asian nation, giving Kuehne & Nagel the local relationships it has sought, Bernstein analysts said.

Kuehne & Nagel said the deal, which would allow it to offer better services in Asia, would be financed from liquid sources and, if needed, credit lines. It said a minor stake of Apex shares would remain with the management of Apex, which would operate separately within the Kuehne & Nagel group.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, Kuehne & Nagel said. The company’s shares rose 1.9% in pre-market trading after the announcement.

Apex, which also offers ocean freight, trucking and warehousing services, was bought by MBK in 2015. Since then, it made several acquisitions and strengthened its capabilities in cross-border e-commerce logistics, MBK said.

($1 = 0.8980 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz in ZURICH and Kane Wu in HONG KONG; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Edmund Blair