Deutsche Bahn prepares for the sale of DB Schenker

By Damian Brett

Deutsche Bahn is preparing for the sale of its freight forwarding subsidiary DB Schenker as it looks to focus on its core rail business.

The rail group said today that it has assigned its management board to examine and prepare the case for a potential sale of up to 100% of its shares in DB Schenker, the world’s fourth-largest airfreight forwarder.

“Decisions as to the categorical initiation of a divestment process and the form any sale may take will be made separately at a later date,” the company said.

The company reasoned that selling its forwarding business would allow it to sharpen its focus on its Strong Rail Strategy and core business.

“The objective of the Group strategy, which was launched in 2019, is to shift traffic to environmentally friendly rail, in both passenger and freight transport, and to expand the rail infrastructure in Germany,” the company explained.

It added that while DB Schenker has achieved record results in recent times, in the medium term the company will require larger financial resources and more independence to make international acquisitions with a view to retaining and enhancing its market position.

“For this reason, a sale could open up new opportunities for DB Schenker in terms of growth and development,” Deutsche Bahn said.

“The company’s position as a global market leader makes it attractive for buyers and investors,” it added. “In the light of the economic challenges being faced worldwide and current uncertainty on the capital markets, DB does not want to rush a possible sale of DB Schenker.

“A starting date for a specific divestment process is dependent on the overall situation and not yet decided. A sale shall only take place if it is of financial advantage for DB Group compared to keeping DB Schenker in the Group.”

In the first half of 2022, DB Schenker generated €1.2bn in operating profit, the best mid-year result in the company’s 150-year history.

The company offers land, air and ocean transport services and employs 76,100 people across 1,850 locations in more than 130 countries.

The planned sale does not come as too much of a surprise, there has been speculation for a number of years that Deutsche Bahn had been unsure what it wanted for its freight forwarding subsidiary with rumours of a sale most recently resurfacing in September.

Ongoing market consolidation in the forwarding arena has seen the company lose its top-three status to fast-growing Danish forwarder DSV in recent years, while the gap to market leader Kuehne+Nagel and second-placed DHL Global Forwarding has been stretched.

Speculation will next turn to which companies are potential buyers if Deutsche Bahn goes through with the sale, with DSV one of the the most likely candidates.

The Danish forwarder has grown rapidly in recent years through acquisitions and has in the past expressed an interest in DB Schenker should it be put up for sale.

Based on 2021 figures, were DSV to buy DB Schenker, it would become the world’s largest airfreight forwarder, leapfrogging both K+N and DHL with annual volumes of around 2.5m tonnes.

Writing on LinkedIn, supply chain consultant Cathy Morrow Roberson said that she was leaning towards a break up of the forwarder as the most likely outcome if it is put up for sale by Deutsche Bahn.

However, she also said that Geodis could be interesting to watch, while the cash-rich ocean carriers have been looking to expand their presence in logistics over the last couple of years.

REPORTS: Deutsche Bahn to sell DB Schenker

No plans to sell DB Schenker as DSV rumours resurface

DB Schenker sees profits take off despite volume declines

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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector. After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015. Contact me on [email protected]