$780m acquisition of European freight forwarding group propels Abu Dhabi-based port operator to become a global logistics platform

Strategic investment also offers exposure to maritime activities in the Mediterranean region and port facilities in Spain

By Will Waters
AD Ports Group has agreed to acquire Noatum, a global integrated logistics and top-50 international freight forwarding platform with a presence in 26 countries and LTM revenue and EBITDA of €1.80 billion and €145 million, respectively.

The total purchase consideration (Enterprise Value) for 100% ownership amounts to AED 2.5 billion (US$780 million or €660 million), implying an LTM EV/EBITDA of 4.6x.

AD Ports said “this value and earnings accretive acquisition, which significantly broadens AD Ports Group’s global footprint and positions it among the leading logistics and freight forwarding companies in the world, will be fully funded through a new acquisition loan”.

It said that, “recognising Noatum’s high-growth potential and capacity to scale, AD Ports Group intends to create a market-leading international logistics brand, merging its existing logistics business with Noatum to create a significant presence in the region and enhancing services across the company’s global footprint. Moving forward, Noatum will lead AD Ports Group’s Logistics Cluster, consolidating the company’s existing logistics offering into its operations.”

This will be AD Ports Group’s third major international acquisition in 2022, following the acquisition of a 70% equity stake in Transmar and TCI in September, and the announcement in November of its acquisition of an 80% equity stake in Dubai-based Global Feeder Shipping (GFS).

Noatum, whose origins date back to 1963, operates in three business areas – Logistics, Maritime, and Port Terminals – with market-leading positions in Spain and Turkey and a significant presence in the US, UK, China, and Southeast Asia.

Freight management and logistics capabilities

Noatum’s global Logistics business specialises in comprehensive freight management, project logistics, contract logistics, international supply chain management, customs, and e-solutions, with offices and a wide network of agents around the world.

In particular, Noatum has advanced capacities in heavy lift logistics, which AD Ports Group aims to bring to the region.

The company’s terminals operations include 15 Ro-Ro, dry bulk, general cargo and container terminals in Spain, supported by highly professional management, while its Maritime division provides shipping agency services, including outsourcing and ancillary services, and cargo services, such as liquid bulk, breakbulk cargo, reefer and dry cargo.

Despite its geographical diversification, the majority (75%) of Noatum’s revenues are EUR and USD denominated, AD Ports highlighted.

The company, which employs more than 2,600 professionals, provides tailored multi-modal transport solutions, comprehensive logistics services, and advanced port operations across its key markets, “and aligns well with AD Ports Group’s integrated business model,” AD Ports said. “In addition, the company has specialised automotive, project cargo, and port logistics divisions and offers comprehensive supply chain solutions in the oil & gas, renewable energies, food, industrial manufacturing, pharma and healthcare, and retail industries with customised solutions for clients.”

Some of the revenue and costs synergies of the acquisition include joint purchasing, stronger relationships with shipping lines to attract them to the group’s terminals, expansion of the agency business by leveraging Noatum’s Maritime business, integration of corporate services and functions, transfer of best practices, and best-in-class technology, AD Ports added.

Subject to regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close in H1 2023. As part of the transaction, Noatum’s management is locked in for a period of three years to ensure smooth integration.

A transitional phase now begins, in which work will be carried out together to obtain all the necessary regulatory approvals before the purchase is formalized, Noatum said.

Opportunity for growth

Antonio Campoy, CEO of Noatum, said: “I would like to personally acknowledge the trust placed in us by AD Ports Group, and their commitment to maintaining Noatum’s current organizational structure. The agreement also represents a great opportunity for growth for our group and the people who are part of it.”

H.E. Falah Mohammed Al Ahbabi, chairman of AD Ports Group, said: “Under the direction of our wise leadership, AD Ports Group continues to extend our global footprint through value-adding acquisitions and partnerships with market leaders.

“This ambitious acquisition brings a major global logistics platform into the AD Ports Group family, significantly enhancing our global connectivity and extending the range of maritime, logistics and ports solutions we can offer as we continue to pursue a determined strategy for growth. This acquisition makes AD Ports Group one of the most significant global players in the finished vehicle logistics, which we intend to expand in our home and core markets.”

Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, managing director and group CEO of AD Ports Group, said: “We thank the leadership of the UAE for their guidance and support for this historic acquisition, which is set to be one of the most significant in the industry this year. Bringing Noatum into our integrated network of businesses will add scale and new layers of expertise, supporting both our global ambitions and our contribution to economic diversification within the UAE.

“Noatum operates an asset-light model with a high cash conversion rate and will make an immediate contribution to our financials, at the same time as positioning us for international expansion. We will leverage the acquisition of Noatum to build a strong international logistics brand with deep roots in this region.”