France's Groupe Sterne, a specialist in the overnight delivery of time-sensitive shipments, has acquired German competitor nox NachtExpress. The 2 overnight express delivery providers thus intend to secure existing market shares and gain new ones through economies of scale. The move follows the recent purchase of British Carousel and Danish DANX, initiated by private equity firm, Axcel, and resulting in their merger.
“Groupe Sterne and nox NachtExpress’ decision shows that the after-sales transport market is becoming more professional,” is the opinion of someone who should know; Franz-Joseph Miller. For many years, he was CEO of Lufthansa Cargo subsidiary time:matters, which specializes in time-critical express transports. In 2017, he moved to UK-based Carousel, becoming its chairman until his exit following the merger with DANX. Miller is therefore very familiar with the premium business of customer-centric overnight express transports, due to his own professional career.
In his view, the merger of Groupe Sterne and nox NachtExpress is a “smart move”. Sterne is active almost exclusively in France, he said, with the company working with a network of international partners in Europe and Asia, as claimed in a press release.
nox NachtExpress, on the other hand, has its customer base in Germany, Austria, and the Benelux countries. Hence, there is very little geographical overlap between the two logistics specialists. Instead, they complement each other in a meaningful way, Miller emphasized.
In terms of sales, both companies are almost the same size. Groupe Sterne, for example, turned over €270 million last year, compared with €280 million at nox. Together, the two have 80 depots in France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Combined, they employ more than 2,100 people. According to the companies, more than 6,000 shippers use their transport services. Statistically, they accomplish 3,000 deliveries to more than 100,000 consignees every single working day.
Equity funds expect to see returns
To support Groupe Sterne's organic and international development strategy, private equity fund, Tikehau Capital 2021, became a majority shareholder of the company. In a joint statement, Daniel Desage, Executive Chairman of Groupe Sterne, and Laurent De Rosnay, CEO of Groupe Sterne, praised the move: “The merger enables a pan-European offering, and promotes the expansion of our strategic partnerships with our customers. Our goal is to create new standards for time-critical deliveries with an efficient and reliable high-speed network."
Commenting on the merger of the two companies, Donald Pilz, CEO of nox NachtExpress, was similarly confident: “The complementary alignment of our businesses will provide our existing customer base with new - previously unavailable - opportunities and services to optimize their supply chains. Our goal is to continue to increase the efficiency, quality, and sustainability of our service offering,” said Mr. Pilz
Different transport concepts
Sterne and nox fully rely on road transport for distributing and delivering express goods overnight, at least until now. This is the biggest difference to time:matters and Carousel/DANX, who operate dedicated freighter fleets during night hours on pan European routes, complemented by trucks and sprinter vehicles. It is very questionable whether nox and Sterne will add smaller cargo aircraft to their transportation fleet as done by their 2 competitors. They do not give any hint in their joint press release. Franz-Joseph Miller shares: “It takes really deep expertise to operate an air network professionally and successfully.”
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