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Transport and logistics barometer

2021 full-year analysis of M&A deals, joint ventures and strategic alliances in the transport and logistics industry

The transport and logistics industry is ending its second year of the corona crisis with a new record for mergers and acquisitions in 2021: Deals with a total value of $219.1 billion were announced. Three quarters of the deals were in the freight transport and logistics sector. On regional distribution of deals, Asia remains the region with the most mergers and acquisitions and the second highest total deal value. On the other hand, there were 47 T&L megadeals with US$1 billion or more, ten of which involved Chinese companies.

There are major regional differences in the global venture capital market which is dominated by large transactions in Asia and the USA. Europe, on the other hand, lags behind. The major global players have so far been cautious to tap the VC market and have tended to participate in smaller financing transactions internationally.

The increasing requirements for sustainability and climate protection – in addition to strong freight prices – boosted the whole industry.

Find out more from the Transport and logistics barometer 2021 full-year analysis which shows how the industry is doing and its outlook.

Highlights for 2021

322 deals

were announced in the transport and logistics industry in 2021 − an absolute all-time high triggered by a strong pent-up demand that also pushed the total deal value ($219.1 billion). More than twice as many megadeals (47), deals with a value >$1 billion, compared to the previous year were announced. In addition, 2021 was the year of strategic investors: they participated in 44% of all deals (2020: 39%) and they accounted for 51% of the total deal value (2020: 35%). The value/sales multiple (1.6) has improved further towards the ten-year median (1.8), with prices for passenger-related targets and freight-related targets balanced.

transport and logistics barometer

Supply chain disruptions 

have affected transport processes resulting in an increased scarcity of capacity and rising transport costs that are now affecting large parts of the economy. Container shortages, closures of the ports in Yantian and Ningbo or the Suez Canal blockade are some of the factors that have led to congestion. Container vessels and ports are currently assuming an additional storage function as the entire supply chain has faltered and won’t be fully restored before 2023. However, the pandemic has once again highlighted the relevance of maritime shipping and ports and kept investor interest high. The subsector saw the second highest number of M&A deals in 2021. Of the 59 deal announcements, 41% related to port infrastructure.

transport and logistics barometer

Freight transport 

accounted for 75% of all deals while the share of passenger-related deals slightly declined to 25%. Logistics and Trucking represented the strongest subsector, as usual, with more than 30% of the total deal value, created by 170 deals, thereof 21 megadeals. Some of the major players in logistics and shipping (e.g. DSV, Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM) dominate the M&A landscape and pursue their strategies of integration along the logistics value chain. The Chinese government, likewise, announced the merger of five logistics companies to form a major global player called China Logistics Group. Another 30 transactions related to targets in China.

transport and logistics barometer

Increased pressure to decarbonize 

The UN COP26 conference and the EU Fit for 55 package have fuelled the climate discussion. Logistics players are increasingly entering into alliances and M&A to achieve the ambitious goals by pulling different levers. Nearshoring, efficiency gains through digital marketplaces, multimodal transport, alternative delivery methods, shared fleets and assets, new drivetrain technologies or alternative fuels offer a wide range of opportunities. For example, DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo established a carbon neutral connection between Frankfurt and Shanghai as of May 2021 based on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Though, complex issues and barriers remain.

transport and logistics barometer

Major T&L players participate in small VC deals 

despite overall funding in logistics startups has surged and led to a number of new unicorns in 2021, especially in the last mile and platform spaces. One example is the end-to-end supply chain visibility platform provider project44 that turned unicorn after its $202 million Series E funding round led by Goldman Sachs and Emergence Capital. Europe is basically lagging far behind the US and China. Venture capital funding is not yet as widespread, and existing patterns make it difficult for European startups to grow.

Outlook for 2022

In H1 2022 

M&A activity will continue at a strong level as T&L companies will further seek growth options and expand their service offerings through acquisitions − also beyond the core business. Investments in digitalization and retired infrastructure will be increasingly important in 2022 to combat supply chain disruptions. We also expect more investments, cooperations and acquisitions related to sustainability.

transport logistics barometer aug2021


This report is an analysis of the current industry environment and of global transaction and strategic collaboration activities in the T&L industry.

The analysis covers all mergers, acquisitions, sales, leveraged buyouts, privatisations and acquisitions of minority interests with a transaction value greater than $50 million. All transactions announced between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2021 have been included. Project transactions, such as public-private partnerships – which are more common than corporate transactions, especially in the field of infrastructure – do not fall within the scope of the analysis.

Contact us

Alan Ng

Alan Ng

Mainland China and Hong Kong Transportation and Logistics Leader, PwC Hong Kong

Tel: +(852) 2289 2828

Roger Zhang

Roger Zhang

Partner, PwC China

Tel: +[86] (20) 3819 2274

Julius Shen

Julius Shen

Partner, Strategy& China

Tel: + [86] (21) 2323 2273

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