ZURICH (Reuters) - Danish logistics group DSV A/S sweetened its offer for Panalpina to $4.3 billion, with a tug of war escalating on Friday over the Swiss company as it weighs a separate deal with Kuwait’s Agility Group.
DSV raised its bid for Panalpina to 180 Swiss francs per share in cash last week from the previous cash-and-shares offer worth around 170 francs, the Danish company said.
DSV went public with its raised offer after Panalpina and Agility Group announced a possible tie-up. This could include the Swiss company purchasing Agility’s logistics business and the Middle Eastern group taking a stake in Panalpina, sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters.
The 20 largest freight forwarders control just a third of the market, making the industry ripe for takeovers or partnerships as companies look for ways to improve profitability and take advantage of economies of scale.
“The revised all-cash offer was made in response to feedback received from Panalpina and included certain commitments to be specified toward Panalpina’s employees and the Panalpina heritage,” DSV said.
Freight forwarders coordinate much of global trade, organizing shipments on aircraft, ships and trucks.
Panalpina’s biggest shareholder, the Ernst Goehner Foundation with about 46 percent of the shares, had opposed the original DSV offer, saying it wants the Swiss company to be a freight-forwarding industry consolidator, not prey for a rival.
The Zug, Switzerland-based foundation declined comment on the new DSV offer or the Agility talks.
Agility — with 22,000 employees and $4.6 billion in annual revenue, about $3.5 billion coming from logistics — has been expanding globally under managing director Tarek Sultan.
A deal in which Panalpina buys Agility assets and Agility takes a Panalpina stake is one scenario that could emerge from the companies’ discussions, the sources told Reuters.
“The discussions between the two companies are at a preliminary stage,” Panalpina’s board of directors said.
Shares in the Swiss company rose as much as 9.3 percent following DSV’s announcement. By 1134 GMT they stood at 157.7 francs, around 12 percent below DSV’s new offer.
DSV shares in Copenhagen were up 1.4 percent.
Agility said talks with Panalpina might yet fail.
“Agility is always exploring opportunities to grow its business and maximize shareholder value,” the Kuwaiti company said. “There are no guarantees that an agreement will be reached.”
DSV Chief Executive Jens Bjorn Andersen wants Panalpina’s air and sea freight operations to help DSV consolidate the fragmented industry. The deal, if it succeeds, would make DSV the industry’s fourth-largest player, behind DHL Logistics, Kuehne & Nagel and DB Schenker.
Expanding in Switzerland has met obstacles, however, as Andersen failed last year in his $1.55 billion bid for Swiss freight forwarder CEVA Logistics.
CEVA later deepened ties to French shipper CMA CGM.
Panalpina has been under pressure from activist Swedish investor Cevian, which owns a 12.3 percent, to consider a takeover. Cevian on Friday declined to comment.
U.S.-based Artisan Partners, which controls 9.99 percent of Panalpina, had urged the Swiss company to give “impartial consideration” to DSV’s initial proposal.
($1 = 1.0061 Swiss francs)
Additional reporting by Angelika Gruber and Oliver Hirt in Zurich and Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen; Editing by Michael Shields and Louise Heavens