UK Logistics Merger Saves Parcel Delivery Firm Yodel from Bankruptcy

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More consolidation is occurring within logistics, furthering the notion that M&A activity across the sector could be getting hot in 2024.

Over in the U.K., “big and bulky” delivery company Shift is teaming with investment bank Solano Partners to buy parcel delivery firm Yodel, preventing the logistics provider from falling into administration—the country’s version of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Yodel said in a statement that the new ownership and access to capital will save “thousands” of jobs. Yodel employs 10,000 people across the U.K.

YDLGP, a new consortium formed by Shift executives and Solano Partners, stepped in to buy Yodel, which makes roughly 190 million deliveries across the U.K. every year out of 47 customer delivery depots and three sortation hubs. Yodel delivers for U.K.-based retailers John Lewis, JD Sports, Boden and Very, online resale marketplace Vinted, e-commerce fashion firm Zalando and fast-fashion giant Zara.

Mike Hancox, CEO of Yodel, said in a statement that the transaction enables the company to ensure continuity for all its customers, employees and stakeholders.

Yodel said it had revenue of 561.8 million pounds ($707.3 million) in 2023, but the company has struggled to gain market share from parcel competitors including national leader Royal Mail Group, Evri, Amazon, DHL and UPS.

But Yodel’s parcel expertise brings a new dynamic to the tech-focused Shift, which specializes in the delivery of heavy-to-carry goods like furniture. Shift works with home furnishings retailers like Ikea and Homebase, delivering larger orders both from the store and online. The company operates kiosks in partner retail stores where shoppers can book deliveries.

Additionally, the logistics firm touts a network of more than 10,000 independent drivers and fleets and says it leverages algorithms to find the best-suited driver.

Shift is used to buying distressed delivery companies, already having acquired Tuffnells in July after it fell into administration. Tuffnells, like Shift, carries freight with larger, irregular dimensions and weights (IDW), further scaling the Shift “big and bulky” business model.

Three months prior to the Tuffnells deal, the seven-year old company acquired another large-item logistics business, Movinga. Shift is expecting to expand into the U.S. into the future, into markets like Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston, but hasn’t provided a timeline.

YDLGP bought Yodel from the Barclay family, owners of U.K.-based publication The Telegraph. The family put the delivery firm up for sale last year.

Beyond the delivery world, mergers are occurring for freight brokers as well.

In the U.S., Chicago-based digital freight broker CDL 1000 acquired Long Beach, Calif.-based rival Next Trucking for an undisclosed sum.

The deal brings CDL 1000’s business, which manages loads on short-haul routes between seaports and warehouses, into the Los Angeles and Long Beach area, giving it access to the two neighboring San Pedro Bay ports. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

With Next Trucking in tow, CDL 1000 aims to boost its nationwide reach at a time when digital freight brokers have struggled. Tech-enabled firms that have sought to play matchmaker for truckers and freight shipments struggled mightily after freight rates plummeted throughout 2022 and 2023—coinciding with a more risk-averse venture capital environment that was less comfortable funding unprofitable businesses.

Convoy was the biggest casualty of this field, with the trucking-focused freight tech company shuttering operations last fall just a year after being valued at $3.8 billion. Flexport, the digital freight forwarder that had its own revenue issues, bought Convoy’s tech stack after the business folded.

In another example of the sector’s struggles, Transfix, which had plans to go public in 2022, opted to remain private due to the ongoing market conditions.

And Next Trucking itself raised $273 million before its acquisition, yet was valued in July at just $196 million, according to Pitchbook.

Nevertheless, CDL 1000 founder and CEO Andrew Sobko remained bullish on Next Trucking, telling the Wall Street Journal that the digital freight brokerage is now “one of the top three trucking players in L.A. and Long Beach.”

The Shift-Yodel and CDL 1000-Next Trucking deals come after a few logistics transactions already kicked off in February. Logistics companies Ryder System, Inc. and AIT Worldwide Logistics acquired Cardinal Logistics and Global Transport Solutions (GTS) Group, respectively.

Shortly after those deals were announced, supply chain solutions management provider Blue Yonder acquired Germany-based Flexis, a software technology provider specializing in production optimization and transportation planning and execution.

The biggest deal this year so far came after months of court contention, with Forward Air and Omni Logistics completing a $2.1 billion merger in January.

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