- Knight-Swift Transportation is buying U.S. Xpress Enterprises for $808 million. These are the details.
Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc. (NYSE: KNX) and U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: USX) announced an agreement under which Knight-Swift will acquire U.S. Xpress for a total enterprise value of approximately $808 million, excluding transaction costs. And the transaction has been unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of Knight-Swift and a Special Committee of the independent directors of the U.S. Xpress Board of Directors. Plus it is expected to close late in the second quarter or early third quarter of 2023, subject to customary closing conditions.
These are the highlights:
— Knight-Swift revenue base to grow by nearly 30%; Knight-Swift management targets high-80s adjusted operating ratio and mid-teens return on invested capital(1) for U.S. Xpress by calendar 2026
— U.S. Xpress stockholders to receive 310% premium over U.S. Xpress’ closing stock price on March 20, 2023; U.S. Xpress Special Committee determined compelling cash consideration maximizes value for U.S. Xpress stockholders
— U.S. Xpress brand and separate operations to continue
— Knight-Swift growth and diversification strategy remains intact, with low leverage and strong cash flows to support ongoing national LTL build-out and full range of capital allocation alternatives
Based on the 2022 results, U.S. Xpress is expected to add about $2.2 billion in total operating revenue (including $1.8 billion in truckload revenue), 7,200 tractors, and 14,400 trailers to Knight-Swift’s consolidated enterprise. And after the transaction, Knight-Swift’s consolidated revenue run-rate is expected to approach $10 billion, while the truckload fleet will have approximately 25,000 tractors and 93,000 trailers.
For last year, U.S. Xpress total revenue comprised approximately 36% dedicated truckload, 34% U.S. Xpress Inc. irregular route truckload, 14% Total Transportation of Mississippi irregular route truckload, and 16% brokerage. And the portions of the U.S. Xpress business are performing reasonably well, such as the Total Transportation subsidiary, while the most underperforming irregular route business unit matches up well with Knight-Swift’s strengths.
The deal is expected to be accretive to Knight-Swift’s adjusted earnings per share starting in 2024. And Knight-Swift is targeting a high-80s adjusted operating ratio by calendar 2026, producing a mid-teens return on invested capital for the consolidated U.S. Xpress business unit. So management expects the U.S. Xpress truckload business to perform similarly to Knight-Swift’s other truckload business units over time based on Knight-Swift’s historical execution and success with acquisitions.
For the transaction, U.S. Xpress stockholders will receive $6.15 per share in cash for each outstanding share of U.S. Xpress Class A and Class B common stock, except Max Fuller, Executive Chairman of U.S. Xpress, and Eric Fuller and related entities will rollover a portion of their shares of U.S. Xpress into an approximately 10% interest in a new Knight-Swift subsidiary formed to hold the U.S. Xpress business post-closing.
The rollover interests will be subject to optional and mandatory redemption provisions based on the future performance of the U.S. Xpress business post-closing. And as minority owners in the future U.S. Xpress, the Fullers will have a continuing economic interest and be fully aligned with Knight-Swift in ensuring that U.S. Xpress is best positioned for success, including by fostering ongoing relationships with key customers and vendors, and maintaining other important business relationships. Plus the Fullers have agreed to certain restrictive covenants.
The total enterprise value of $808 million for U.S. Xpress represents Knight-Swift assuming U.S. Xpress’ $484 million of outstanding debt and finance leases and purchasing its outstanding equity for $324 million, or $6.15 per share, and excludes its $336 million of operating lease liabilities for the purposes of this calculation (debt and lease balances as of December 31, 2022). And as of December 31, 2022, U.S. Xpress had approximately $96 million in outstanding borrowings under its secured revolving credit facility and $388 million in other long-term debt and finance leases.
Knight-Swift expects to repay and terminate the U.S. Xpress secured revolving credit facility at closing while seeking to retain in place U.S. Xpress’ existing primarily fixed-rate equipment and real estate financing arrangements. Knight-Swift had about $1.3 billion unrestricted cash and available liquidity on December 31, 2022, a portion of which will fund the transaction.
After the closing of the transaction, U.S. Xpress will continue as a separate brand and operation to minimize disruptions for the driving associates, shop and office employees, and customers. And at the same time, cross-functional teams made up of leaders from Knight, Swift, and U.S. Xpress will work together to leverage economies of scale, freight network efficiencies, and best practices.
Through closing, U.S. Xpress will continue to be led by its current senior management. At closing, the Fullers along with Eric Peterson, CFO, will transition out of their executive officer roles while remaining available to ensure a smooth transition. And Tim Harrington and Josh Smith, both executives at Swift and members of the teams that helped achieve significant margin improvement following the Knight-Swift merger, will join U.S. Xpress as President and CFO, respectively. Tim and Josh are going to be supported by Knight-Swift’s deep bench of subject matter experts, and their prior transition experience is expected to make them excellent partners for working with the U.S. Xpress team.
The deal is not conditioned on financing and is subject to regulatory and other customary conditions, including approval of holders of a majority of the voting power of the outstanding shares of U.S. Xpress Class A and Class B Common Stock voting together, approval of holders of a majority of the outstanding shares of each class of U.S. Xpress common stock, voting separately, and approval of holders of a majority of all outstanding U.S. Xpress’ shares not held by the Fullers, the officers and directors of U.S. Xpress, or Knight-Swift.
“The opportunity to add one of the largest and most well-known brands in our industry, with significant opportunity to improve earnings, gain customers and reach more professional drivers, was very compelling to us. We expect to apply the same playbook that proved successful in the Knight-Swift merger as we share best practices, improve operations and work together to help U.S. Xpress become the best that it can be. Although it will take time, particularly given the current freight environment, we would not have pursued the transaction unless we were confident in achieving our return thresholds within a few years. Beyond that, we will continue to work with the U.S Xpress team in pursuit of the performance levels of our other truckload businesses over the next several years, so the opportunity for our stockholders is substantial. Moreover, this transaction will not slow down the geographic expansion of our LTL network or our other growth initiatives, as our financial and other resources remain significant.”
“The Fuller family, along with their co-founders, the Quinns, built one of the largest and fastest growing truckload carriers in the country, which is a significant accomplishment in such a fiercely competitive industry. We’re honored to lead the next phase of U.S. Xpress’ development, and we are pleased that the Fullers are willing to link a portion of their economic outcome to ours to mitigate the transition risk and will be aligned with us in ensuring that U.S. Xpress becomes the best it can be.”
— Knight-Swift CEO Dave Jackson
“We are very pleased to deliver to our stockholders the opportunity for near-term liquidity at a significant premium. Additionally, joining the Knight-Swift team is an exciting opportunity for our people, our customers, and the Chattanooga and other communities we call home. The increased scale, operating expertise and resources of the combined entity will allow U.S. Xpress to pursue new levels of service and efficiency. We’re delighted that U.S. Xpress will continue to operate as an independent brand and will do so with the support and partnership of one of North America’s strongest transportation companies.”
— U.S. Xpress CEO, Eric Fuller
“The Special Committee evaluated the transaction against the company’s standalone prospects and current macroeconomic environment and unanimously determined that the compelling and certain cash consideration is in the best interest of all U.S. Xpress stakeholders and maximizes value for its stockholders. Knight-Swift is a proven operator with a strong track record in the industry, and we are confident this transaction is the best path forward for U.S. Xpress.”
— John Rickel, Lead Independent Director and Chair of the U.S. Xpress Special Committee
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