WDP Colfridis

The Colfridis-Distrilog-WDP deal: putting solution-oriented thinking into practice

written by Norbert Padt
Published on:
Future logistics
Sale & lease backLogistics & Supply Chain

What do you do when a customer who you have been working with for many years comes to you with a specific problem? You work together to look for a win-win solution. And that’s exactly what happened with the Colfridis deal. A deal in which WDP played an extremely important role. How did this happen then? Kristof De Witte, General Manager for BeLux and France at WDP, explains the project.

Kristof, how did the deal come about exactly?

WDP got a call from the people at Distrilog, who had been a customer of ours for many years. Colfridis, also a customer, was just on the market, and Distrilog was more than interested in a takeover. There was just one problem: the price tag. Colfridis was the owner of their own buildings, and these were the largest part of the cost. This made the total package uninteresting to Distrilog. This was because they were only interested in taking over the operational activities of Colfridis, not the real estate. When we got that phone call, we easily saw a win-win solution to the situation.

What did this win-win solution look like?

Well, at WDP, our slogan is, Warehouses with brains”. We not only rent out buildings, we look for solutions for our customers. In this particular case, we helped two of our customers, as well as ourselves. Colfridis wanted to sell. Distrilog bought the operational activities and strengthened its offer with cooling and pharma logistics. And we expanded our portfolio with three sites, totaling 35,000 m², that are worth EUR 22 million. These were located in a prime location, allowing us to strengthen our position in the Londerzeel industrial area.

Was it a simple deal?

It turned out better than expected because there were no strangers at the negotiating table. However, the acquisition of companies is always more complex than the purchase of real estate. We were assisted by Deloitte and our legal partner, Eubelius. Colfridis was assisted by Ernst & Young. The biggest challenge in such a case is always confidentiality. It is a matter of remaining under the radar until the agreement is completely cut and dried. Thankfully, the deal was concluded in September 2016.

Technically, WDP bought the real estate company from Colfridis in which the buildings were on the list of assets. Distrilog bought the operational company from Colfidis, which took in all the activities. Given that both companies were under the same management beforehand, unravelling inter-company” agreements was the most difficult job. Distrilog continues to run all the operational activities they took over from Colfridis in the original distribution centres.

Impressive. Are there any similar projects in the pipeline?

Approaching logistics service providers or end users for a Sale & Lease Back is actually a fairly common strategy at WDP. Such a formula allows us to do what we do best (real estate). Our customers can focus on their core activities again, without heavy real estate investment.

One project we are currently working on is that of Neovia Logistics. They had 34,000 m² of property on about 8 hectares in the Schoonmansveld industrial area in Puurs, which is too large for their activities. They sold the property to us, and now hire 15,000 m² of it back from us. We want to redevelop the other warehouses (about 20,000 m², ed.) and the large piece of land around it. This means we can open up new potential markets and offer rental through our channels. We have all the confidence in the future for this site; after all, it is located at the junction of the A12 with the N16. It’s a prime location, right in the middle of the golden Brussels-Antwerp-Ghent triangle.

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