XPO Logistics considering sale or spin-off of business units

(Reuters) - XPO Logistics Inc XPO.N said on Wednesday it was considering the sale or spin-off of one or more business units, sending shares of the warehousing and last-mile delivery provider up more than 16% in extended trading.

The move marks a strategy reversal for the Greenwich, Connecticut-based company, which grew the business via 17 acquisitions from 2011 to 2015.

XPO has two segments - logistics and transportation - with the latter contributing the majority of its revenue. Its services range from managing retail order fulfillment and returns to in-home, “white-glove” delivery and assembly of large items such as exercise equipment and furniture.

The company said it would not sell its North American less-than-truckload (LTL) unit. XPO bought Con-way, North America’s second-largest LTL provider, for $3 billion in 2015.

However, Chief Executive Officer Bradley Jacobs said selling or spinning off businesses was the best way to maximize shareholder value, as XPO shares trade at a significant discount to peers such as Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc KNX.N and FedEx Corp FDX.N.

The company's many rivals also include logistics and transportation companies United Parcel Service Inc UPS.N and Deutsche Post's DHL Group DPWGn.DE and trucking firms J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc JBHT.O and Werner Enterprises Inc WERN.O.

The transportation industry has been under pressure from U.S. trade spats with China and other countries and a slowdown in the manufacturing and coal sectors.

XPO has also grappled with company-specific issues.

Hedge-fund manager Spruce Point Capital Management in a December 2018 report accused the company of using aggressive accounting to hide losses.

XPO called the report misleading and inaccurate.

Nevertheless, Jacobs later told the Wall Street Journal that the resulting share price swoon caused the company to stop pursuing a large acquisition.

XPO has been buying back shares since February last year, when it disclosed that it lost $600 million in annual revenue from its largest customer - widely believed to be Inc AMZN.O.

Transportation merger and acquisition activity for the first three quarters of 2019 totaled $76 billion, according to accounting firm PwC. That was down almost 21% year-over-year, even as the number of deals climbed nearly 6%.

Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Securities are the financial advisers to the review process, while Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz is the legal adviser.

Shares of the company, which have gained about 37% in the last 12 months, rose to $96.40 in extended trading.

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; editing by Arun Koyyur and Richard Pullin