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UPDATED: 5/7/2018

AUTOMOTIVE Holdings Group Ltd’s hopes of selling its erratically performing logistics division have come to an end, with its suitor, Hong Kong-based finance and leasing company HNA, pulling out of the deal last Friday.

It leaves AHG back in control of its Refrigerated Logistics division – comprising four specialist companies involved in transport and cold storage – and missing out on a $400 million boost to its 2017-18 financial year books.

But, in what appears to be an extraordinary coincidence, the two leaders of HNA and AHG have died within 24 hours of each other.

The co-founder and chairman of the giant Chinese conglomerate, Wang Jian, has fallen to his death in southern France while touring Provence and the recent chairman of AHG, Robert McEniry, who resigned due to sudden illness in April, died this week after a short battle with cancer.

Reports say, Wang Jian, aged 57, was touring a church and, while standing on a parapet for a photograph, appeared to lose his footing and fell 15 feet on to rocks. He could not be revived.

HNA Group International, through its Australia subsidiary CC Logistics, made a bid for the division in late November offering $280 million in cash and about $120 million in finance lease liabilities.

The deal was planned to be completed at the end of the financial year but on Friday June 29, after AHG had spent previous weeks pursuing HNA for restitution, the bidder declared it would not proceed.

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange this week, AHG managing director John McConnell said he was “disappointed” but that the move would now “allow the RL management team to focus fully on running the business”.

“HNA made an unsolicited offer for Refrigerated Logistics last year and we engaged with HNA,” Mr McConnell said in the statement.

“Unfortunately, since that approach, HNA has run into liquidity problems which, combined with the delayed FIRB (Foreign Investment Review Board) process, left the conditions precedent unable to be satisfied within an agreed timeframe.

“The intent was always to complete the investment phase of the transformation program and create optionality regarding the future of Refrigerated Logistics and we will maintain our focus on that.”

Refrigerated Logistics developed national cold storage facilities and a transport fleet over the past five years.

Late last year it was the subject of a restructuring program aimed at improving its operating efficiency through investment in information technology and integration of the three operating businesses.

In the last financial year ending June 30, 2017, Refrigerated Logistics generated operating earnings (EBITDA) of about $35 million.

A more accurate reflection of its improving performance was its EBITDA of $10.8 million in the most recent July-October 2017 period, a rise of 46.6 per cent from the same quarter in the 2017 financial year.

The funds from the sale of the division – which comprises Rand, Harris, Scott’s and JAT Refrigerated Logistics – were planned to be used to grow AHG’s automotive retail operations and provide additional flexibility to undertake capital management initiatives.

HNA is a Hong Kong-based global financial and leasing company with more than $90 billion in annual revenue.

It is China’s biggest non-banking leasing company and is mainly involved in the logistics and transport industries with subsidiaries including Fleetcare, FleetProtect and FleetIntelligence.

HNA also owns more than 400 hotels in 29 countries under the NH Hotels and Hesperia Resorts brands, casinos and fast food restaurants, stockbroking businesses and it has interests in tyre and trailer manufacturers.

By Neil Dowling

Manheim
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