bpost acquires Radial, formerly eBay enterprise, for $820M

The global e-commerce race — and how it is underpinned by logistics, delivery and economies of scale — continues to heat up. And today, the Belgian Post Group, also known as bpost, announced its latest move to bulk up its operations in North America. It has acquired Radial, the fulfilment company formerly known as eBay enterprise, for $820 million.

This is important because Radial is considered to be Amazon’s largest competitor for fulfilment in the U.S., tapping into deliveries not just from huge retailers but hundreds of smaller businesses and startups, accounting for around 20 percent of all eCommerce orders that flow between the U.S. and E.U. today, the company said.

“I’m very proud of this acquisition that represents a great leap forward for bpost, promoting us as a leading player in the e-commerce logistics business in the Benelux, Europe and throughout the world,” said Koen Van Gerven, CEO of bpost, in a statement.

“I’m convinced that offering integrated and seamless e-commerce logistic solutions to our US and European customers will help them grow their businesses. The expertise and capabilities of Radial employees are a unique complement to bpost and will help us in becoming a leader in e-commerce logistics. I’m very happy to welcome all Radial employees to our bpost family.”

Notably, though, $820 million is not actually a great exit for Sterling Partners, which had been the group most recently backing Radial. When eBay enterprise was first divested by eBay and sold to a Permira-led consortium in 2015, its value was $925 million, which itself was a pretty significant drop compared the $2.4 billion eBay paid when it first acquired the basis of eBay enterprise in 2011.

(The original Permira-led acquisition did not include a CRM division of the company acquired by Zeta Interactive for around $80 million. Also, to be clear, the Magento division was spun out separately after Permira acquired eBay enterprise, so that is also not a part of today’s deal.)

While many think of Alibaba out of China, or the world’s biggest employer and retailer Walmart out of the U.S., when they consider who might be Amazon’s closest rivals in the world of e-commerce, this deal underscores another area where the company is competing hard. E-commerce and retail industries are putting a lot of effort into fulfilment and logistics to improve operations and margins.

Bpost, which has around $2.9 billion in revenues annually, has been on an acquisition spree in the last year and a half, buying a number of smaller delivery companies both in freight and last-mile delivery both in North America and Europe to expand its economies of scale. They have included buying somewhat anonymous-sounding but actually huge companies like Freight Distribution Management, as well as more consumer-focused businesses like Matt’s Express and Apple Express. It also tried but ultimately backed away from buying PostNL, the Dutch incumbent postal service.

Bpost has also entered into some deep partnerships with the likes of DHL and started its own small startup-style efforts (such as Bringr, an app to let you find delivery services) to build out its efforts.

Radial will essentially bolt on a lot of scale to that business, and specifically in the U.S.. The operations — which were formed by the combination of eBay’s former B2B operations that were spun out around the time of the PayPal split, with Innotrac in April 2016 — cover 24 fulfilment centers, over 300 retail customers, and over 27,000 eCommerce workers (contract and employees).

Radial, based out of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, fulfilled over 306 million units for its retail customers, the company said. 2017’s revenues are forecasted between $970 and $1,020 million, with normalized EBITDA between $65 and $70 million.

“Radial represents the gold standard for profitable e-commerce and omnichannel technology arming merchants with the capabilities needed to operate at a global scale,” said Matthew Espe, CEO of Radial, in a statement.

“There has never been a more important time when it comes to helping brands grow their online business profitably, especially when reaching their customer base internationally. Joining the bpost family is a critical next step for both companies as we strive to help meet customer expectations on the backbone of industry- leading technology and services.”

The timing of this deal is interesting.

Just last week, it was reported that Amazon is working on a new “flex” last-mile delivery service in competition with FedEx (and now bpost).

This would be in addition to what it is already offering for its own marketplace and direct sales to customers: a separate service that could be used for all deliveries, similar to what bpost and FedEx and DHL do today.

Furthermore, Amazon’s work on The Hub, new in-building parcel lockers for both Amazon and other deliveries, which we reported on earlier this year, would also fit into this idea. The company has essentially started to position itself as a delivery company for more than just goods sold on the Amazon platform.

My guess is that there have been murmurs in the market about this bpost deal, and that has possibly led to details leaking out about Amazon’s “flex” plans. Or conversely, the leaks about Amazon’s plans have led bpost to move faster on closing and announcing its deal for Radial.

The deal is expected to close in the last quarter of 2017, and will also include debt, bpost said.