Shipping group CMA CGM in talks to buy Bolloré Logistics

French shipping group CMA CGM has offered to buy the logistics business of billionaire Vincent Bolloré in a deal that would value it at €5bn, as it extends an acquisition spree after making outsized profits during the height of the pandemic.

The two groups said on Tuesday that they would now hold exclusive negotiations, while Bolloré Group added that it had given CMA CGM a deadline of May 8 to finalise its offer.

A deal would further slim down the Bolloré Group, which also holds the family’s stake in Vivendi and its holdings in Universal Music Group. It sold its African ports and logistics operation to MSC Group for €5.1bn in December.

It would also be a sign that billionaire industrialist and corporate raider Bolloré is reshaping his family’s holdings again via acquisitions and divestments — this time leaving them more focused on media and shorn of the ports, transportation and logistics business that he spent decades developing in Africa and elsewhere.

For CMA CGM, which is owned by the billionaire Saadé family, the deal would further its aim of growing its logistics arm to eventually reduce its reliance on the boom-and-bust-prone maritime shipping business that is still its biggest. During the height of the pandemic the Marseille-based group benefited from sky-high shipping rates that drove record sales of $74.50bn and profits of $24.9bn last year.

Chief executive Rodolphe Saadé has said he wants to use the cash to build up the logistics business so that it can offer services to multinational customers such as Walmart and Amazon from the factory to last-mile delivery. CMA CGM has already done four acquisitions of logistics companies since 2018, and also bought a minority stake in Air France in 2022 to move into air freight.

Bolloré said on Tuesday that it “will communicate in due course on the outcome of their discussions”. CMA CGM said: “The negotiations in no way guarantee an acquisition in the end.”

Bolloré Group’s shares rose more than 5 per cent in afternoon trading on Tuesday in Paris.

The transportation and logistics unit, which once included Bolloré Africa Logistics, was once the group’s biggest business operation, generating €7.1bn, or roughly a third, of group revenues in 2022.

A person familiar with the matter said the Bolloré Group was considering the sale because the logistics business required deep pockets and investments and it was not sure it could keep up with rapidly expanding leaders in the sector.

Flush with its pandemic billions, CMA CGM has the means to invest heavily and a deal would vault itself into the top five logistics groups globally, said another person familiar with the matter.

Bolloré Group holds a 29 per cent stake in French media group Vivendi, as well as 18 per cent in Universal Music Group, which was spun out in 2021. Vivendi is in the process of acquiring Lagardère group, which will bolster its holdings in book publishing and travel retail. However, European competition regulators are still examining the acquisition.

Bolloré Group’s board will meet on Tuesday to vote on a proposal to add €0.25 to its share buyback programme priced at €5.75 per share should the deal go through.

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