Sunday, August 5, 2012

Market share shifts in the freight forwarding market?

A look at earnings reports from three of the largest European freight forwarders suggest the freight forwarding market may be witnessing market share shifts among the top players and perhaps  even a bottoming out in the market. While it’s difficult to determine the total health of the market by revenue alone, perhaps most telling is the volume each provider moves.

DHL’s Global Forwarding, Freight division reported an almost 6% increase in revenue in second quarter and 7.9% increase in freight forwarding revenue alone. DHL noted revenue benefitted from improved purchasing conditions in the airfreight market. Revenue from airfreight declined but increased in ocean.

Volume-wise, DHL reported airfreight volumes declined 7.1% for the first half of 2012 and a 5.4% decline in second quarter. The decline in airfreight was attributed to declines in the technology industry.
Not surprising, ocean freight fared better with volume up 4% for first half of 2012 and 4.4% for second quarter.

DHL has implemented what is called “New Forwarding Environment” which is aimed at developing a “forward-looking operating model based on efficient processes and state-of-the-art IT systems”.
Kuehne + Nagel appear to have fared a bit better then DHL for the first half of 2012. Airfreight was up 1% and ocean freight was up 8%. The company noted Asia Pacific airfreight remained weak but market share grew for Middle East carriers. Volumes by region shows that Europe exports declined 5.8%, Asia Pacific exports increased 10%, Americas export increased 7.8% and “Other” declined 4.5%.

Ocean freight volumes increased 8% with Europe exports up 6.2%, Asia Pacific exports increased 5.3%, Americas exports up 9.5% and “Other” up 21.2%.
Like Deutsche Post DHL, Kuehne + Nagel have also implemented a new standard operating system for freight forwarding operations.

Finally, Panalpina reported a 6% decline in airfreight volumes and 7% increase in ocean freight volumes for first half of 2012. For second quarter, the company reported a record volume increase of 7% in ocean freight. Panalpina noted market share gains in airfreight. Perhaps the company did achieve this but apparently not enough to move it pass the top two airfreight forwarders – DHL and Kuehne + Nagel.

While declines in airfreight volumes continued into second quarter for Panalpina and DHL, the declines were not as severe as those from first quarter for Panalpina. Panalpina’s first quarter airfreight volume declined 8% while DHL’s declined 2.1%. For second quarter, Panalpina’s airfreight volume declined 3% while DHL’s declined 5.4%. Perhaps DHL fared better in first quarter thanks to the launch of Apple’s new iPad in March whereas there were no big high tech gadget launch during second quarter which evidently hurt DHL.

The differences in airfreight volumes among the three 3PLs indicate that DHL may be more dependent on the high tech industry then the other two 3PLs.
The shifts from air to ocean appears to have benefitted all three providers but perhaps the advantage went to Kuehne + Nagel, already the largest ocean freight forwarder, reporting a 8% increase in tonnage.

The second half of 2012 is already underway and with anticipated high tech gadget launches planned, DHL should expect a boost in airfreight volumes. Ocean freight should remain fairly positive for such regions as the Americas which will be a plus for Kuehne + Nagel.  Panalpina will likely continue to increase its volumes for both air and ocean and perhaps close the gap between itself and Kuehne + Nagel and DHL.