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December 27, 2021 1:15 PM, EST

More Trucking Acquisitions Ahead for 2022

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The trucking industry experienced a surge in acquisitions during the past year, with more expected to occur in 2022.

The past year saw a perfect storm of factors that drove acquisitions. Among them were deals that were put on hold during the pandemic finally coming through, along with concerns over potential changes to capital gains taxes pushing deals forward. Headed into 2022, the deal market may remain hot as long as motor carriers continue seeing high valuations, experts said.

“[Based on] everything I’m seeing and hearing in the conversations we’re having with clients and companies in the space, I would say that the expectation is for next year to have very similar dynamics to this year,” Jonathan Britva, principal at investment banking and advisory firm Republic Partners, told Transport Topics. “I think those supply chain constraints aren’t going away anytime soon. I think with interest rates still at a level that they are, with stock prices at a good level, with earnings being strong, I think all of that will cause another really good year.”

RoadSigns

In this special 2021 Roundabout episode, host Mike Freeze looks back at how trucking not only worked to recover from the effects of the pandemic, but also improve through the darkest of times. Hear a snippet above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

Lee A. Clair, a managing partner at Transportation and Logistics Advisors, said 2022 could see some spillover in deal activity from the prior year.

“There are a lot of deals that tried to get done this year that aren’t going to make it. Things that are too backed up,” he told TT. “Earnings are still doing well in general. It’s still a very strong time. There is nothing that can be seen at the current time that looks like the strong demand and the strong pricing environment are going to let up anytime soon. I think it may revert to a more normal pace, but I think there is a good chance that it’s still going to stay pretty strong.”

Tenney Group CEO Spencer Tenney expects there will be more private fleets looking to grow through acquisitions. His company has been an adviser on one such deal, Ashley Furniture Industries’ acquisition of Wilson Logistics that was agreed upon in November.

“I think you’re going to see some more of that,” Tenney told TT. “You’re going to see private fleets get into more of the for-hire business to deal with some of the capacity issues. They tend to recognize they need real logistics experts to meet their capacity issues. And so I think that you’ll see them dip in and get talent and get networks in place to help them meet their own cost challenges. I think that’d be a big one.”

Spencer Tenney

Tenney

Ashley Furniture Industries ranks No. 26 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private fleets in North America.

“I think you’ll also see a lot more smaller deals because they can be done and they can be simple,” Tenney said. “In the past, if it was a smaller deal, it probably wasn’t worth the hassle to do it. Whereas now if you can’t grow organically, people are going to have to get pretty good at acquisitions. I think you’re going to see a lot of people doing smaller acquisitions and building on that. It’s an exciting thing. I think that you’ll see a lot of value built in the next year based on people just expanding their growth strategies and integrating acquisitions as a bigger part of it.”

John Anderson, an operating partner at Greenbriar Equity Group, noted the merger and acquisition market is primarily driven by prospects for growth. That is what drives individual buyers or private equity firms to think a sector is a good place to invest, he said, along with factors such as leverage and the ability to get debt that’s low priced.

“You have a bunch of money flowing in,” Anderson told TT. “You’ve got the debt side flowing in because it’s available and low cost. And you have some pent-up demand or pull-forward demand that created this cauldron in 2021 of kind of a perfect deal market, if you will. And then on top of that, the buyers were willing to make robust growth assumptions about the future — and that leads to higher valuations.”

Anderson

Anderson

Anderson noted there have been robust growth expectations among enough buyers to drive some escalation in pricing.

He said that while activity will slow down at some point, based on current trends the market should remain strong.

“I don’t see a slowdown in deal flow right now,” Anderson said.

“We’re still seeing strong deal flow in all sectors of transportation and logistics. Prices are going up. Inflation is a worry on the cost side, but so far price increases have generally been able to cover cost inflation,” he said. “So most buyers are still willing to bet on robust growth in the supply chain, logistics, trucking transportation, airfreight and so forth. I don’t see anything right now explicitly that says 2022 should see a slowdown.”

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