If UPS loves logistics, why sell its logistics tech biz?

November 23, 2010, 2:44 AM UTC

UPS may love logistics, but it no longer has any use for its Logistics Technology business. The delivery giant today agreed to sell the Baltimore-based unit to private equity firm Thoma Bravo, for an undisclosed price.

So I had five questions for Thoma Bravo principal Holden Spaht, to better understand what’s in play:

1. What exactly did you agree to buy from UPS?

They have a software business they bought a while ago called RoadNet, which is the name we’ll return to. It’s a fleet management software business, involving the routing and scheduling of trucks. Obviously UPS isn’t really in the business of running software companies, so it made sense for them to divest it.

2. Does UPS use this technology itself? And, either way, do you see future competition between the two?

When UPS bought Roadnet, their original idea was to use the technology to optimize their own fleet. But their needs are very complex, so UPS is only a very small customer of this business.

The software mainly solves the last mile of distribution for companies with private fleets. For example, how you get a product from a distribution center to the customer. So there isn’t much competition or overlap between this business and UPS.

3. Is your plan to use this company as an acquisition platform?

Yeah, we’ve looked at the transportation and fleet management market for a long time, and wanted a platform. That’s what this investment will be used for. We like good mission-critical software in growing, fragmented markets, which is the opportunity we see here.

4. Do you see fragmentation in terms of client bases, or in terms of the developed technologies?

It’s really both. There are lots of small guys who are leaders in particular niches or verticals of the routing and scheduling market. But there also are things in the broader logistics tech market like telematics and on-board mobile solutions. There are lots of opportunities for product add-ons.

5. You didn’t disclose the purchase price. Does that mean it’s immaterial to UPS, or that you hope UPS releases the price later when no one is paying attention?

UPS is so large that this is immaterial to them. So it probably won’t get disclosed.