Barge operator Kirby opts against divesting distribution and services unit

Jan 9 (Reuters) - Tank barge operator Kirby Corporation (KEX.N) said on Monday it had decided against a sale or spin-off of its distribution and services business, citing challenging financial market conditions.

"The M&A market continues to be constrained by macroeconomic headwinds, including a challenging financing environment," said Joseph Pyne, Kirby's Chairman of the Board.

Shares of the barge operator were up 1.6% at $64.9 in afternoon trade.

Kirby said it had initiated a review of strategic alternatives, including a sale or spin-off, for its distribution and services business in early 2022 and held discussions with a number of suitors.

The barge operator had flagged in October that supply chain issues continued to impact its distribution and services segment and warned labor constraints and inflationary pressures were contributing to rising costs.

In addition, activist investor JCP Investment Management had raised concerns about the company's long-term underperformance relative to peers and pushed for a strategic review, including a break-up or sale of the company, Bloomberg News reported in August last year.

JCP did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Kirby transports bulk liquid products such as petrochemicals, black oil and refined petroleum throughout the U.S.

Through its distribution and services unit, the company sells after-market service and parts for engine and equipment used in oilfield services.

Reporting by Kannaki Deka in Bengaluru

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