German national railway company Deutsche Bahn AG is ready to sell its profitable logistics unit, DB Schenker, or offer shares in the public market.

The parent company said Thursday that it will explore the potential sale of DB Schenker, the fourth-largest logistics provider in the world by revenue, after a vote by its board of directors.  

Revenue from any sale would be used to pay down Deutsche Bahn’s heavy debt load.

The rationale for a sale is that DB Schenker can grow faster with a company fully focused on logistics, while Deutsche Bahn would focus on its passenger and freight rail business. 

“DB Schenker will require larger financial resources and more independence to make international acquisitions with a view to retaining and enhancing its market position in the ever more competitive logistics sector and its enterprise value in the future. For this reason, a sale could open up new opportunities for DB Schenker in terms of growth and development,” Deutsche Bahn said in a statement. 

The company said there is no timetable for putting the logistics unit on the market, especially with mounting global economic uncertainty. “A sale shall only take place if it is of financial advantage for DB Group compared to keeping DB Schenker in the Group,” it said.

Potential buyers could include private equity companies or large logistics competitors. A report from Bloomberg put Schenker’s potential value at $21.4 billion. Other analysts say it could fetch more. The Loadstar, a U.K.-based logistics news site, said DB Schenker could be worth $25 billion and compared the relative merits of an initial public offering or sale to private investors.

DB Schenker, with gross sales of over $27.7 billion, has more than 76,000 employees at more than 1,850 locations in 130 countries. It manages air and ocean freight transportation, handles contract logistics and warehouse management, and operates a large less-than-truckload network in Europe. The company manages more than 27 million square feet of distribution space in the Americas.

In the first half of 2022, DB Schenker generated $1.3 billion in operating profit, the best midyear performance in the company’s 150-year history. 

In September, DB Schenker finalized a $435 million deal to buy USA Truck as part of its North American expansion.

Bloomberg reported in February that Deutsche Bahn was making preparations for a possible Schenker sale. It said the railroad has more than $30 billion of debt on its books.

 Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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