Platinum equity completes WFS acquisition

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Platinum Equity has completed its acquisition of the world’s largest air cargo handler, Worldwide Flight Services (WFS), from LBO France, which has owned the company since 2006.

Platinum Equity is a global private equity firm currently investing from a $3.75 billion buyout fund focused on acquiring businesses that can benefit from the firm’s operational expertise. The firm claims to have substantial experience in transport, logistics and distribution services, including aviation.

WFS executive chairman, president and CEO, Olivier Bijaoui said: “This is the start of a new and exciting chapter in our long history, and with Platinum Equity’s operational support and financial strength we can now build on the growth we have achieved in recent years. Our collaboration will enable WFS to provide even more possibilities for our customers and to explore new avenues of growth.”

WFS has said it expects to accelerate its growth under the new ownership of Platinum Equity, a global investment firm with more than $6 billion of assets under management, “by exploring more business opportunities and implementing its acquisition strategy”. Bijaoui said: “Their financial strength and M&A expertise will be of great support in our acquisition strategy and help the management to write a new and successful page of WFS history.”

Since its formation in 1971, WFS has grown from a family business to a global leader and now employs 12,000 staff worldwide, with annual revenues in excess of €620 million. It is present at over 140 major airports in more than 22 countries on five continents, servicing over four million tonnes of cargo per annum for 300 airline customers.

WFS has pursued its development in fast-growing geographies such as the Middle-East, Asia and Africa and in complementary businesses such as VIP services and the management of cruise terminals. In the last two years, WFS has opened new cargo terminal facilities in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and acquired Swissport’s cargo business at Copenhagen Airport. It has also won the handling concession for a new cargo terminal at Milan’s Malpensa Airport, signed a co-operative agreement with ATA Italia to jointly market cargo, ramp and passenger ground handling services in Italy, and acquired new premises at London Heathrow to reinforce its position as the largest on-airport cargo handler.

And this summer, WFS acquired a 51% shareholding in Fraport Cargo Services, the largest independent cargo handler at Europe’s biggest cargo airport, Frankfurt, as part of a strategic partnership with airport operator Fraport.

Bastian Lueken, head of Platinum Equity’s European investment team, said: “We are excited about the prospects for WFS and are working with the management team to execute on the company’s long-term growth strategy.