World Freight owners sound out buyers for $1.7 billion sale -sources

HONG KONG (Reuters) - World Freight Company International’s (WFCI) owners are sounding out interest for a sale of the cargo freight services provider, which they hope will fetch more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.73 billion), three people with direct knowledge told Reuters.

PAI Partners and Baring Private Equity Asia (BPEA) have approached potential buyers, including a number of other private equity firms, for WFCI, which is based in Roissy, France and a sale could be launched before the end of 2021, the sources, who declined to be named as the information is confidential, said.

BPEA declined to comment. PAI and WFCI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The two firms bought WFCI in 2018 for an undisclosed amount and each owns 50%. The deal was worth over 600 million euros, Reuters reported at the time.

Formed in 2004, WFCI acts as a general sales and service agent for airlines globally, meaning it has exclusive selling rights of an airline’s cargo capacity at agreed terms in a specific territory or region, reducing an airlines’ costs.

Comprising more than 300 entities across 80 countries, WFCI says on its website that its network manages more than 3 million tons of capacity annually for their airline partners.

A potential sale comes as the air freight industry, key to a functioning global supply chain, struggles to recover from serious disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most trade lanes were still well below pre-pandemic levels, an August industry update from freight forwarding company Bansard International showed. Load factors and yields, however, remained at historically high levels in the previous quarter, despite the reduced capacity, the update said.

Asia Pacific, North America and Europe showed the strongest absolute recovery with more than 1 million tonnes in air freight added from May to August, it added.

WFCI has reported growing earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) during the pandemic, although financial details will only be made available when an official sale process begins, the sources said.

Reporting by Kane Wu in Hong Kong; additional reporting by Gwénaëlle Barzic in Paris; editing by Alexander Smith