It is a page of 36 years that is happening for the Bolloré group. The latter has just confirmed its withdrawal from transport infrastructure in Africa with the sale of its subsidiary Bolloré Africa Logistics. In exclusive negotiations from the end of 2021 with the MSC Group (Mediterranean Shipping Company, world leader container transport in volumes) for the sale of all the capital, the group now led by Cyrille Bolloré announced the signing of an agreement on March 31, a few hours before the deadline. The amount of the operation is valued at 5,700 million euros.
With this sale, Bolloré launches an impressive integrated logistics and transport network, which it claims is the first in Africa with a presence in 42 African ports, the operation of 23 terminals and three railway concessions, as well as 2 shipyards and road infrastructure. . Bolloré Africa Logistics has no less than 250 subsidiaries throughout the continent and employs more than 20,000 people.
After a drop in 2020, the activity of Bolloré Africa Logistics recovered again in 2021 to reach a turnover of 2.3 billion euros. This is 93% of the pre-crisis level. The group does not communicate about the profitability of its future ex-subsidiary, but about all of its logistics activities, which show an operating margin of almost 10%, equivalent to that of 2019. According to AFP, the group’s logistics activities in Africa will be more profitable than the others at an international level (Bolloré Logística) despite a lower volume.
The sale must now be validated by the various competition authorities involved. The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2023.
Suffered or desired mutation?
The sale of Bolloré Africa Logistics is part of the group’s transformation strategy, of which Vincent Bolloré entrusted the reins to his son Cyrille in 2019. This breaks with the development process on the African continent that began in 1986 with the takeover of Suez Scac (Commercial Company for chartering and fuel), whose subsidiary Socopao (Commercial Company for the ports of West Africa) is established in Senegal. It is one of the first acquisitions of Vincent Bolloré, which will make it one of his hallmarks. Others will follow, in particular to strengthen the group’s presence on the continent, greatly contributing to the leader’s fortunes.
Behind this strategic change, several reasons can be seen. As AFP pointed out, Bolloré faces increasingly costly investments in Africa and growing competition from Chinese operators. But, above all, to several legal cases, including the corruption scandals in Togo and Guinea for which the French justice accuses the group of having provided assistance for electoral campaigns in exchange for the allocation of port concessions in these two countries.
The group also agreed last year to pay a fine of 12 million euros to the French justice and be followed by the French Anti-Corruption Agency, but the file was referred to the investigation after the refusal of a judge to approve the prior entry of accepted guilt. by Vincent Bolloré and two other officials.
Media and editorial change
However, the Bolloré Group states that “will maintain a significant presence in Africa, in particular through Canal+”. According to a statement, she said that “It will also continue its development on this continent in many sectors such as communication, entertainment, telecommunications and publishing.”
The bicentennial company will therefore refocus a little more around its communication division. It has become the main source of income for the group since 2017, with the takeover of Vivendi (up to 20% of the capital at the time, almost 30% now).
Two large-scale operations are also underway: first, a takeover bid (OPA) for the Lagardère group via Vivendi. Under the watchful eye of Vincent Bolloré, this qualified operation “friendly” it could lead to the creation of a media and publishing giant, notably with the merger of Lagardère Publishing and Editis.
The other major move is the sale of Universal Music Group (UMG), described as group dairy cowof which Bolloré controls 28% via different shares.
The growing family group
For its part, MSC continues its development. Originally a shipowner, the Italian-Swiss group operates 560 container ships and 23 cruise ships (through its subsidiary MSC Cruises). Created by the Aponte family in 1970, it has gradually diversified into land transport, logistics and terminal operations. On this last point, MSC claims the 6th world portfolio via its subsidiary Terminal Investment Limited (TIL), with 54 container terminals.
This diversification could continue in the airline sector: associated with the German group Lufthansa, MSC is in negotiations to acquire a stake in the Italian public airline ITA Airways, which replaced Alitalia last year. The two partners did not reveal the part of the capital they coveted, indicating only that they wanted “that the Italian government retains a minority stake”.
In total, the MSC group has more than 100,000 employees for a turnover of around 25 billion euros.