Unsnarling the supply chain: 6 PE-backed deals

Ardian and LLR Partners are among the PE firms investing. Apollo and EQT are among the sellers.

Private equity-backed supply chain deals flourished in 2021 and 2022, as businesses that were forced to close or limit operations due to covid came roaring back to life only to run into shortages and snags. In 2023, companies that help ease the movement of goods are still attracting PE investors, as you’ll see from the list of deals below.

To learn more about what’s driving the deals, we turned to TBM Consulting Group, a Morrisville, North Carolina-headquartered global operations and supply chain consulting firm that serves manufacturers, distributors, service organizations, private equity firms and their portfolio companies.

“PE investments continue in the supply chain/logistics space, albeit maybe down, like more investments, given the current state of the economy,” said Ken Koenemann, TBM’s vice president of supply chain, adding that challenges within the sector have not really subsided, and companies continue to expand e-commerce activities.

“Opportunities are generally in two key areas,” Koenemann explained.

The first involves “digital platforms that integrate all parties across the supply chain to create better visibility of status of orders and where they are in the entire supply chain.”

The second involves supply chain risk management, which, he said, is a newly emerging opportunity. He defined it as “leveraging technology to identify risks in your supply chain based on shutdowns, slowdowns, geopolitical challenges, regional and country economic situations, etc.”

PE Hub has rounded up six recent deals that fit these themes. All were announced in the first quarter of 2023, and we start with the most recent.

1. LongueVue Capital invests in RBW Logistics

Earlier in March, the New Orleans-headquartered PE firm LongueVue Capital (LVC) announced an investment in RBW Logistics, an Augusta, Georgia-based provider of warehousing, fulfillment, and related value-added services to the consumer staples, industrials and durable goods markets.

Founded in 1954, RBW has grown to operate nine facilities in Georgia and South Carolina totaling over 2 million square feet of warehouse space in the last decade, the company said.

“RBW’s solution-oriented culture, broad operational capabilities, and depth of value-added services make the company stand out in the 3PL marketplace,” said Ray Jeandron, managing partner at LVC. “With its Augusta roots and significant operational infrastructure, RBW is poised to become a superregional Southeastern 3PL.”

2. Staci acquires Rotunda Capital-backed fulfillment services firm Amware

Also in March, Staci, a European multichannel fulfillment provider, backed by Ardian, a Paris-based PE firm, announced the acquisition of Amware Fulfillment, a Lawrenceville, Georgia-headquartered tech-enabled fulfillment and parcel transportation provider that was backed by Bethesda, Maryland-based Rotunda Capital Partners.

Founded in 1989, Amware has multiple distribution centers across the US.

3. Apollo Global Management and EQT sells Blume Global for $414m

In February, Apollo Global Management and EQT announced the sale of Blume Global, a Pleasantown, California-based provider of intermodal rail facilitation services in North America, to WiseTech Global for $414 million.

Chicago-based WiseTech is a developer of logistics executive software. WiseTech’s customers include top logistics companies across more than 170 countries.

Blume manages intermodal containers and chassis on behalf of railroads, ocean carriers and other intermodal equipment providers.

4. Diversis Capital-backed Fishbowl Inventory acquires e-commerce platform Sellware

In February, Fishbowl Inventory, a portfolio company of Diversis Capital, announced the acquisition of Sellware, a Cary, North Carolina-based provider of inventory and order management systems for e-commerce.

Sellware was founded in 2004 while Fishbowl Inventory, a provider of ERP software for small-to-mid-sized businesses, was founded in 2001. The company focuses on the SMB market for B2B inventory, warehousing, and manufacturing, but until now, has been unable to compete in the B2C omnichannel space, which continues to be a high-growth market segment, Fishbowl CEO Peter Osberg told PE Hub.

“Understanding that SMBs continue to grow their businesses by expanding their sales by channels, Fishbowl and Sellware will stand out because we offer core services our competitors do not, including multi-location support, sophisticated inventory management, and dynamic order routing,” he said.

5. Apax Digital recaps digital freight platform Magaya

In January, Apax Digital said it recapitalized Magaya, a Miami and San Antonio-based digital freight platform. Apax Digital joined existing investor LLR Partners and other shareholders.

“Magaya’s Digital Freight Platform enables logistics service providers to digitize manual processes, optimize operations and achieve real-time visibility through its highly configurable software suite, clear and transparent pricing model, and commitment to customer service and training,” said Dave Evans, partner at Apax.

Although the pandemic-driven shocks and supply chain disruptions have started to normalize, Evans sees it as the beginning of an adoption wave as opposed to an end.

“It is clear that providing real-time visibility, flexibility, and efficiency to enable customers to build resilient, shock-prone supply chain operation is becoming table stakes as opposed to “nice to haves”. To that end, logistics providers are reassessing their operations and evaluating systems that aim to digitize and automate their workflow processes to cater to the needs of their clients more effectively,” he said.

6. NOVA-backed Harbor Logistics acquires ATS Logistics

In a deal announced in January, Harbor Logistics, a portfolio company of NOVA Infrastructure, a New York based PE firm, acquired ATS Logistics, a Charleston, South Carolina-based provider of transportation and warehousing services.

Asset-heavy transportation and logistics companies act as critical infrastructure, especially in high-growth ports that are constrained by their existing asset base or infrastructure footprint, NOVA founder and partner Allison Kingsley told PE Hub.

When asked if demand is cooling off as the macroeconomy slows, Kingsley said NOVA invests based on long-term fundamentals, and the firm identified southeast ports and certain types of asset-heavy transport and logistics investments as sustainable and attractive investment targets.

“During times of weaker demand, frequently local providers consolidate to deal with leverage issues or economies of scale,” she said. “By encouraging and funding some of this consolidation, it may improve efficiency and allow us to better position ourselves for a return to recovery or growth. Because we are acquiring smaller businesses and consolidating, this slower period may very likely present opportunity instead of risk.”