TNT Calls Rumors of Mail Unit Sale “Interpretation”

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – TNT NV (TNT.AS), Europe’s second-largest mail and delivery group, said speculation it planned to sell its mail unit was “interpretation”, after comments from ING analysts sent its shares up 4.8 percent.

“Rumours of sales in mail are interpretations. We have communicated to investors what we have also told the market,” a TNT spokesman said on Tuesday, without elaborating.

TNT shares were up 4 percent at 1343 GMT after rising as much as 4.8 percent, making it by far the biggest gainer on Amsterdam’s bluechip index .AEX, which was up 0.7 percent.

ING analysts said it appeared the company wanted to exit its mail unit entirely over time.

“While the company has formerly communicated that it is open to partnerships for its mail business — which was obviously a very vague statement — it now seems that TNT intends to divest the mail business bit by bit,” the equity analysts wrote in a note on Tuesday.

“This is what we heard in the market and which the company in principle confirmed to us yesterday evening.”

TNT said in a statement issued on Feb. 1 that its Dutch mail unit “would over time be prepared towards enabling partnerships, in the context of further European postal consolidation.” It also said that its European Mail Networks could engage in “partnerships and sale.”

Investor sources said that during its roadshows, TNT has gone into more detail about the options they have been considering, mentioning the carve-out of the Dutch mail unit as one of the scenarios that has been mooted.

“They seem to have been using language in roadshows recently that has been much clearer than what they have communicated in their press releases,” said one of TNT’s shareholders, who did not wish to be named.

“They have been willing to tell investors what they are considering but they do not want to give the market more…” said an equities analyst on condition of anonymity.

TNT’s management has already held strategy talks with an activist shareholders consortium comprising Jana Partners and Canadian asset manager Alberta Investment Management Corp, which believe there is value in splitting the express and mail units.

Like larger rival Deutsche Post (DPWGn.DE), TNT has been struggling to cope with falling consumer demand while adapting to the liberalisation of the mail market, although it has intensified its cost-cutting efforts since the start of 2010.

By Greg Roumeliotis
(Editing by Karen Foster)