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            september 17, 2019

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WFS sets its sights on Asia


WFS, an air cargo handling organisation. is looking to build its business base in Asia as it aims to mirror its strong and growing presence in Europe and North America. 
Following the opening of its joint venture, Bangkok Freight Services (BFS) at the new international airport in Bangkok in October 2006, WFS is turning its attention to opportunities in new markets such as China and other large air cargo hubs in Asia.  However, Olivier Bijaoui, President of WFS, says the company will wait for the right business opportunities to come along before it makes its move. 
He said: "We opened our new 55,000 square metre cargo handling terminal in Bangkok towards the end of last year at the start of a 20-year licence to provide all ground services at the new airport.  The facility is now handling 600-800 tonnes of cargo a day.  We see this as the start of a growing WFS presence in Asia." 
WFS earns in excess of  €330 million of its total  €560 million per annum revenues from its cargo handling business that currently incorporates 27 locations in Europe, 36 in stations in North America and Bangkok.  In 2006, WFS handled in excess of three million tonnes of cargo. 
With a total client base of some 300 airlines and airport authorities worldwide, WFS is also achieving strong growth in its other core business activities, notably ramp handling, passenger VIP services and baggage handling operations around the world. 
The company's strategy for 2007/8 has the support of its new parent, LBO France, which acquired WFS from its former owners VINCI at the end of October 2006. 
Olivier Bijaoui, President of WFS, is confident LBO will prove to be an effective parent for the company and he is also respectful of the support of former parent, VINCI.  "VINCI was a very good shareholder and gave us the support we needed over the past four years.  Having decided at the end of 2005 that airport services would not be a core activity in its future strategy, VINCI gave us the opportunity to find new shareholders that would focus on the next stage of WFS growth," he said. 
Under VINCI's control, WFS was able to invest nearly €100 million in buildings and acquisitions, notably the purchase of France Handling, new facilities to support the long-term cargo handling concessions in Copenhagen and Bangkok and the purchase of the EFS ground handling business in Paris.  The period also saw significant expansion of the company's network of locations in the US market – now 38 cargo stations – and growth in key stations such as London and Frankfurt. 
"I met a number of parties interested in buying WFS and there is no doubt in my mind that LBO France is the best parent for us.  In our discussion, LBO proved they were dynamic, supportive and straightforward people and working with them has been very enjoyable so far.  They liked the fact that we are a worldwide organisation with a strong cargo network compared to our competitors as well as the fact that we own a lot of cargo warehousing in many countries and we have long term leases of land, in some cases on 30-year contracts. 
"As well as our position as the world's largest cargo handling organisation, they recognised we have strong ground handling operations in France, Europe and the US as well as big baggage handling operation in Hong Kong, Paris and Vancouver.  Our baggage handling business alone now generates €80 million of our €560 million of revenues.  These are just some of the factors that helped to differentiate WFS in LBO's mind," adds Bijaoui. 
2006 also saw the opening in May of a new 7,000 square metre cargo terminal at Copenhagen Airport.  WFS has been awarded a 30-year full scope cargo handling concession by the airport authority to be the second cargo handler in Copenhagen. 
Outside of Asia, he says WFS will continue to look for new business opportunities in Western and Eastern Europe as well as in markets such as India, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. 
He said "The strategy for WFS is to remain fairly pragmatic.  We are not going to make acquisitions or take on new contracts just to add more revenue.  We need to be able to see a decent return in order to continue to invest in our business.  In cargo, there is no need for us to make a big acquisition.  We have the most complete network today of any handler so our focus is more likely to be on small and medium sized handling companies that can be easily integrated into our network and culture." 
Underpinning everything will be the company's continued commitment and focus on high quality service levels for its customers and Bijaoui is confident WFS has the people to deliver this.  "We have a great workforce.  You do not gain such high recognition for cargo handling, baggage handling and ramp services without a good workforce.  In 2007, we plan to further develop our name in the world market.  We have grown by reputation and now we want to become even more known in the outside world."

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