Norbert Dentressangle defies market with impressive results

Norbert Dentressangle had a surprisingly good year in 2012, with both sales and profits rising. In an information release yesterday (February 28), the company stated its turnover had climbed 8.5% to €3,880m, but profits in terms of EBITDA fell by 3% to €244.8m. However, the company asserted that after stripping-out depreciation costs, net income was up 18% at €74.7m.

Although Norbert Dentressangle did not release a full set of figures, on the information available the performance has been remarkable. The transport business, which is concerned with road freight within France and between Britain and the continent, saw an increase in operating profit of 27.6%. The company states that its operating margin hardened from 2.5% in 2011 to 3.1% in 2012. The company singled-out its pallet distribution business as performing particularly well. The company did admit to losing volumes from some key customers, but said that it had gained market share overall.

At Norbert Dentressangle’s contract logistics business, operating profit fell by 3.2% to €77.9m, a margin of 4.4%. Performance of this business was good across much of Western Europe.

In addition the company’s blossoming freight forwarding business achieved an operating profit of €1m on turnover of €143m, which included the John Keells Group in India.

The company also announced it now does 59% of its business outside France, with the UK accounting for over a third of sales.

This performance is remarkable in the light of the state of the market. In road freight in particular, it can only be explained by significant gains in market share, yet has not resulted in lower profit margins. The profits are so good that the previously highly leveraged group has been able to reduce its debt from 114% of revenue in 2011 to 78% in 2012.

Speaking publicly, Herve Monjotin, Norbert Dentressangle’s CEO, commented that despite the sluggish outlook for the market as a whole, he still expected to achieve the same return on sales in 2013 as in 2012. He also clearly indicated that the company was very interested in buying freight forwarders around “Europe and maybe outside Europe”. Bearing in-mind both these results and the state of the forwarding sector, he will not be short of opportunities if his ambition supports it.