Simon Pinto and James Gagne with members of the Bansard International team at the companys headquarters in Paris (1)
Simon Pinto and James Gagne with members of the Bansard International team at the company's headquarters in Paris

Seko Logistics has bought French forwarder Bansard International, its largest acquisition to date.

Bansard had revenues of some €210m ($244m) in 2020, and although the size of the deal was undisclosed, a tentative enterprise value is likely to be about €200m.

However, Bansard chairman and investor Simon Pinto is well-known for being something of a deal-maker and, as one observer said: “He must have sold at a good price.”

Seko, meanwhile, is thought to be keen to continue its acquisitive phase since Ridgemont Equity Partners invested in the company in December 2020, and the Bansard move was a “clear statement of intent” of Seko’s growth ambitions, said president and CEO James Gagne.

Bansard has 55 offices in 17 countries, with some 600 staff focusing on retail/fashion, electronics, industrial, aerospace and pharma. Two years ago it was said to be in talks with ASL Group to buy airline ASL France, which operated 19 Boeing 737s in the express market. However, Bansard is thought to have revised its offer downwards over concerns about profitability, a move which wasn’t received well by ASL. In the same year, Bansard bought Australian forwarder Cargo Line International.

But the forwarder didn’t give up on its quest to be involved in aviation and, in October 2019, established a new entity dedicated to aerospace.

Its focus recently has included e-commerce, a strong part of Seko’s business, and last week Bansard launched its service on Alibaba’s platform, offering “15 classic products”, such as air freight services, sea freight and cross-border trucking.

Mr Pinto will continue to head Bansard, and “remains personally invested”.

Seko said Bansard’s customers would be able to grow their sales in the US and UK markets, while Seko would benefit from Bansard’s French operation and “strong Asia-Europe inbound air and ocean freight”.

Observers have suggested that Seko was likely to grow fast via acquisitions – “This is a big purchase for Seko – but it is now getting the venture capital money, and working it to expand the group. I am guessing it will be sold on, itself, in a few years.”

Seko said it was indeed “primed for the next stage of global growth”.

“Bansard International is a perfect fit with our own business model as a mid-sized, independent, growth and technology-driven, client-obsessed organisation,” said Mr Gagne. “There are so many positive aspects of our new collaboration. France is such an important logistics market, even more so since Brexit.

“Working with Bansard, we are making a long-term commitment to clients in France and those across the globe trading with France. In Europe, this new investment adds to Seko’s strong presence in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark and puts us on a rapid upward trajectory. We are continuing to explore further investments to strengthen our global network and service portfolio.”

Mr Pinto added: “This merger is a unique strategic opportunity that allows Bansard International to become a global player by covering new geographies, including the US, and by offering our customers innovative international transport solutions, especially for e-commerce.

“It is good news for our customers, for our employees and for our suppliers, thanks to the growth prospects through diversification of services, better international coverage and higher potential for technological development.”

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