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Mainfreight Case Study

Mainfreight Group – Mighty Oaks from little acorns grow A case study of a New Zealand Multinational’s Foreign Market Entry Strategy Mainfreight – Mighty Oaks from little acorns grow.This case study examines the strategies Mainfreight Limited has exploited when entering foreign markets.It examines Mainfreight’s successes and failures and investigates whether its market entry strategies played a significant part in these experiences.

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The Mainfreight Group market themselves as a global logistics provider offering “managed warehousing and international and domestic freight forwarding” (Mainfreight, 2013).

As of 2013 Mainfreight Limited is operating in over 14 countries in four continents. Originally a domestic freight provider, the company now specializes in providing a large variety of services common to global logistics providers such as domestic haulage of both full and part loads, International Air services, International Sea Container services, Contract Warehousing and Supply Chain Management as well as other service offerings not commonly associated with global logistics providers including “Fashion Services, Canadian Transborder Logistics Services and Entertainment Media Logistics”(Linkedin, 2013).

Mainfreight generally focuses on target areas they identify they can add more value to than “simple cartage” (Massey University, 2009) Mainfreight attribute their success to their unique culture, stating on their website that they “have developed a style of doing business, successful not only in New Zealand, but around the world”. Whilst this is a bold statement, Mainfreight has had some great accomplishments. Their success hasn’t been an accident and this mighty oak was once a little acorn.

Since its inception in 1978, Mainfreight has grown significantly and is often cited as one of New Zealand’s most successful companies (Otago Business School, n. d. ). Founded by Bruce Plested with $7,200 (Mainfreight, 1996) “and a 1969 Bedford truck” (Fairfax NZ News, 2008) Mainfreight’s business quickly expanded. Neil Graham joined Plested in 1979 as Joint Managing Director and opened their first Christchurch Branch.

Growth continued and Mainfreight soon developed “New Zealand’s most extensive [domestic] freight network” (Mainfreight, 2013) by using coastal shipping to get around draconian laws that required “all freight travelling on land a greater distance than 150 kilometres to be moved by rail. ” (Mainfreight, 1996) Mainfreight Founder Bruce Plested “By the time land transport deregulation occurred in 1985, we were hardened and experienced after 8 years competing against the system and the giant transport companies.

With the playing field almost levelled we were the fittest players, and our company was evolving a deep culture and a vision of what we could achieve” “By the time land transport deregulation occurred in 1985, we were hardened and experienced after 8 years competing against the system and the giant transport companies. With the playing field almost levelled we were the fittest players, and our company was evolving a deep culture and a vision of what we could achieve”

Complementary to the company’s special culture Plested believed that some of the company’s success could be assigned to its agility and responsiveness to change, stating in Mainfreight’s 1996 prospectus; Revenue exceeded NZD$10 million for the first time in 1984 and the first Mainfreight International branches, 50% owned by the Mainfreight Limited in conjunction with their managers opened in Christchurch and Auckland also opened. Mainfreight, 1996) 1989 saw the opening of Mainfreight’s first Australian branch in Sydney with a view to offering services that “would allow customers to treat New Zealand and Australia as one market” (New Zealand Management Magazine, 2007). Mainfreight International Branches also opened in Melbourne and Sydney and revenue first exceeded NZD$50 million. The period between 1990 and 1996 was typified by geographic expansion throughout Australia and New Zealand.

This growth was primarily via two different channels; via organic growth from its existing operations, and through acquisition of competitors or complementary service providers. Service expansion and differentiation formed the backbone of Mainfreight’s organic growth platform through the early 1990’s. Named operations such as Metro Cartage, Wharf Operations and Distribution began to appear alongside the regular Mainfreight and Mainfreight International brands. Revenues continued to grow and the New Zealand domestic and International parts of he business continued to excel. However, the same could not be said for Mainfreight’s Australian operations which did not break even until 1994 (Kennedy, 2000). “By having a strong domestic and international presence in both New Zealand and Australia we have a good chance of demonstrating to a multinational company that when it comes to this corner of the globe, we are the people to use. We do not have the choice of only being able to service New Zealand, the multinational is not interested – they see Australia and New Zealand as one” By having a strong domestic and international presence in both New Zealand and Australia we have a good chance of demonstrating to a multinational company that when it comes to this corner of the globe, we are the people to use. We do not have the choice of only being able to service New Zealand, the multinational is not interested – they see Australia and New Zealand as one” Despite these losses Mainfreight’s commitment to the Australian market was never in doubt.

Executive Chairman Bruce Plested described the perception that the rest of the world regard Australia and New Zealand as one market and that multinationals “increasingly engage a global freight company to provide all their freighting and warehousing services throughout the world” (Mainfreight, 2002). Plested’s argument was that by having a presence in both Australia and New Zealand it would demonstrate to large multinationals that Mainfreight were the logistics provider of choice and specialists in this geography.

He did not feel he could achieve this operating in New Zealand alone. In order to rectify the company’s poor Australian result the business undertook a series of acquisitions through the early to mid 1990’s that included Mogal Freight, MSAS and Premier VIP stores. (Refer to Table 1. 1 for more information on Mainfreight’s acquisitions during the period between 1980 and 1995). TABLE 1. 1 Plested in an interview with Graeme Kennedy in March 2000 reflected on the Australian operations struggles; “We have struggled to break into the usiness with those bigger customers since we moved into Australia with an interstate freight operation similar to our New Zealand model” “The business has been difficult to grow and we haven’t made the progress in the Australian domestic market we had hoped” “You’ve got to have the size and network and employ Australians to get the respect of the bigger companies.

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Without the size and the volumes, the services you can offer are restricted with a smaller network. They want to see size and network to give them confidence in the operation” We have struggled to break into the business with those bigger customers since we moved into Australia with an interstate freight operation similar to our New Zealand model” “The business has been difficult to grow and we haven’t made the progress in the Australian domestic market we had hoped” “You’ve got to have the size and network and employ Australians to get the respect of the bigger companies. Without the size and the volumes, the services you can offer are restricted with a smaller network. They want to see size and network to give them confidence in the operation”

It was the acquisition in 1994 of Premier VIP Stores that finally gave Mainfreight the critical mass of customers required to finally start making profit from their Australian operation. With profitability worries behind them, operating revenues hitting NZD$100 million per annum and all three divisions of Mainfreight Limited’s business operating profitably, the business listed on the New Zealand stock exchange on the 14th June 1996. 35 million shares, roughly 60% of the company’s issued capital, was made available by owners Bruce Plested and Neil Graham to the general public at a price between $0. 5 and $1. 10 per share (Mainfreight, 1996) The listing proved to be an immediate success with Mainfreight’s share price increasing 72% in its first year as a publically listed company. Acquisitions in New Zealand and Australia continued throughout 1997/1998. Mainfreight purchased 75% of LEP Freightways New Zealand and purchased outright LEP International Australia, Combined Haulage, Senco Haulage and Trade Air Ocean Ltd all significant players in the Australasian logistics industry. Mainfreight’s international growth continued, purchasing minority shareholdings in ISS and Associates in Hong Kong (37. % of Bolwick Ltd) and China (50% of Mainfreight Express Ltd) one month after opening its first Mainfreight International branch outside of Australasia, also in Hong Kong in September of 1998. This signified the start of Mainfreight’s push to become a global player in the logistics scene which continued with the purchase of CaroTrans from Arkansas Best Corp in 1999. Mainfreight bought 49. 5% of the CaroTrans operation with the remaining shareholding taken up by an investor group that included CaroTrans CEO Greg Howard. Refer to table 1. 2 to see how Mainfreight Group had structured its investment in other subsidiaries as of 2001.

TABLE 1. 2 “Mainfreight has built a network of businesses which it owns throughout New Zealand and Australia and also operates with joint ownership’s, a network throughout the United States, in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Beyond these regions, in Europe we work with Ziegler (our partner in CaroTrans) and with agents and alliances in most other countries”. “Mainfreight has built a network of businesses which it owns throughout New Zealand and Australia and also operates with joint ownership’s, a network throughout the United States, in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Beyond these regions, in Europe we work with Ziegler (our partner in CaroTrans) and with agents and alliances in most other countries”. In their 2001 Annual Report Mainfreight described the group of businesses they had acquired over the past 21 years. The period between 2002 and 2007 saw Mainfreight focus on its existing geographies. In New Zealand growth occurred through the opening of new Mainfreight domestic transport branches as well as through the 79. 6% acquisition of the Owens Group of companies in 2003.

The company’s Australian operations were also performing with revenues from Australian Domestic and International segments equalling the New Zealand group’s sales performance for the first time. Mainfreight purchased the outstanding 51. 5% of CaroTrans in 2004 and opened additional branches of across the United States and Australia. Mainfreight International opened further Chinese branches in Ningbo, Shenzen and Guangzhou. Table 1. 3 demonstrates Mainfreight Groups financial performance by geographical segment for the year ending 31st March 2007. TABLE 1. 3 Mainfreight USA has now traded some 18 months under our ownership. In that time we have identified a number of shortcomings in the business which we are in the process of addressing. Results are well below our expectations and are poor at best. ” “Mainfreight Group culture and operating disciplines have been introduced to the USA operations, including a stronger branch management focus, the introduction of our owner driver model for pick up and delivery, and a more rigorous approach to both fixed and variable cost management. ” more rigorous approach to both fixed and variable cost management Mainfreight USA has now traded some 18 months under our ownership. In that time we have identified a number of shortcomings in the business which we are in the process of addressing. Results are well below our expectations and are poor at best. ” “Mainfreight Group culture and operating disciplines have been introduced to the USA operations, including a stronger branch management focus, the introduction of our owner driver model for pick up and delivery, and a more rigorous approach to both fixed and variable cost management. ” more rigorous approach to both fixed and variable cost management

Mainfreight’s expansion did not stop there. Target Logistics, a public company listed on the American Stock Exchange was acquired “in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately USD $53. 7 million” (CW Downer & Co, 2007). This represented Mainfreight’s largest acquisition to date. Chris Coppersmith CEO and President of Target Logistics stayed on with the company and headed up the newly formed Mainfreight USA, however his time in the role was short lived. By the end of 2009, Coppersmith was no longer with the company having been replaced by 14 year Mainfreight Veteran John Hepworth.

Mainfreight’s 2009 annual report shed some light on some of the issues the American operation was facing. During this period Mainfreight purchased the outstanding shares from its Management in Hong Kong and China and disposed of its 75% shareholding in both LEP International New Zealand and Australia for AUD $83 million to minority shareholder Agility Logistics Group (Mainfreight, 2007). However these setbacks did not slow down the Mainfreight Group, the company achieving sales of NZD $1 Billion for the first time in time 2009.

Buoyed by consistent sales growth the company continued with its rapid development and advanced into Europe. The Wim Bosman group of companies, “one of the largest privately? owned, integrated transport and logistics providers in the Netherlands and Belgium with 14 branches across six European countries, with more than 1,000 transport units, more than 275,000m? of warehouse and cross docking facilities and approximately 1,414 team members” (Mainfreight,2011) was purchased outright in 2011 for 110 million Euros. This time however Mainfreight installed Mark Newman, one of Mainfreight’s first graduates as CEO of the European business.

Mark having spent 21 years with Mainfreight, Mark was very familiar with the company’s culture and drive to succeed. In the company’s 2012 Annual Report Newman reflects on his first year in charge of Wim Bosman / Mainfreight Europe. “We have now completed one full year of ownership of the Wim Bosman group of companies. During this period we have been able to integrate Mainfreight’s financial disciplines and begin the process of aligning our new team members to Mainfreight’s culture. Unfortunately, financial performance has not met expectations” “We have now completed one full year of ownership of the Wim Bosman group of companies.

During this period we have been able to integrate Mainfreight’s financial disciplines and begin the process of aligning our new team members to Mainfreight’s culture. Unfortunately, financial performance has not met expectations” Despite these continued expansion struggles Mainfreight is still being awarded accolades, in 2012 winning the “Best Growth Strategy” award at the Deloitte / Management Top200 Awards Ceremony. So, what has Mainfreight learnt from these acquisitions and how has their behaviour changed over time? Refer to the tables 1. 4 and 1. for an update on Mainfreight Groups financial performance by geographical segment and the group’s structure as of 31 March 2012, before answering the Questions in Section two. TABLE 1. 4 TABLE 1. 5 Questions / Discussion 1) Can Mainfreight truly be classified as a “global” logistics provider? Using Collinson and Rugman’s definition from Peng’s 2014 text of a true global multinational enterprise having “at least 20% of sales in each of the three regions of the Triad consisting of Asia, Europe and North America but less than 50% in any one” we can see that Mainfreight does not quite fit this criteria. Table 1. shows Mainfreight Groups consolidated sales by geographic segment for 2012. Sales in the USA and Europe represented 24% and 23% respectively of the group’s NZD$ 1. 8billion total sales. Asia however contributed only 3%. Strictly following Rugman’s definition this would suggest that Mainfreight is not truly a global logistics provider. If we redefine Rugman’s definition to state “at least 20% of sales in each of three regions but less than 50% in any one” the 54% of sales coming from Australasia would suggest that Mainfreight is still to Australasian centric to be considered a true “global” logistics provider. ) Has Mainfreight’s mode of entry into foreign markets changed over time? If so how, and why? There have been some consistent themes as well as some changes to Mainfreight’s market entry strategies since opening their first Mainfreight International Branch in 1984. The consistent themes have seen Mainfreight continuously pursue Equity modes as means of entry. As a service provider Mainfreight has been unable to pursue some non-equity modes of entry, as it is not possible to export their services to foreign markets, although Licensing and Franchising agreements could have been pursued in other markets if Mainfreight so desired.

The main changes in Mainfreight’s approach occurred between 2005 and 2007. This was most obvious when Mainfreight acquired 100% of Target Logistics, increased its shareholding to 100% in both its Hong Kong and Chinese operations and divested its 75% shareholding in LEP New Zealand and Australia. This move to wholly owning their subsidiary’s represented a significant change in thinking for Mainfreight, who up until this time entered new markets in Joint Venture, often sharing costs, risks and profits in conjunction with the subsidiary’s Senior Management. This previous approach was evident in the 49. % purchase of CaroTrans from Arkansas Best Corp in conjunction with CEO Greg Howard and in the Hong Kong and Chinese operations opened in 1998. Whilst the incorporation of CaroTrans into Mainfreight’s business was seen as a success, the introduction into the stable of fellow American company Target Logistics was anything but. Target CEO Chris Coppersmith stayed on when the business transferred to Mainfreight ownership, however the Target business could not adapt to the cultural and financial expectations expected of it by Mainfreight’s Board and Coppersmith was soon replaced by veteran Mainfreight Executive John Hepworth.

As of 2012, the American division is still struggling, remaining the least profitable of all geographic segments in terms of its size as indicated in the table below. NZD 000’s| | | | | | | NZ| Aus| USA| Asia| Europe| Revenue| 455. 7| 529| 439| 56| 419| EBITDA| 54. 5| 33. 7| 19| 2. 6| 28. 1| ROR| 12. 0%| 6. 4%| 4. 3%| 4. 6%| 6. 7%| Despite Mainfreight continually pushing their culture as the number one reason for their success, it may be that they have overlooked the importance of adapting to certain countries specific norms and values.

It certainly wasn’t a new concept as Mainfreight had experienced these struggles in the past, Bruce Plested’s interview with Graeme Kennedy in 2000 touched on the cultural differences of the Australian and New Zealand markets stating “You’ve got to have the size and network and employ Australians to get the respect of the bigger companies” (Kennedy, 2000) The Wim Bosman acquisition which also saw Mainfreight Executive Mark Newman promoted has also struggled financially.

Is it a coincidence that Mainfreight’s joint ventures thrived whilst the wholly owned subsidiaries struggled? The major benefit of joint ventures is the access to partners’ knowledge, albeit whether it relates to regulative, normative or cognitive institutions. It appears this is something Mainfreight has overlooked in the recent past as it moved toward wholly owning its foreign subsidiaries. 3) Why do you think that Mainfreight has entered the markets it has? Mainfreight has applied some logic to the markets it has chosen to enter.

Australia is a logical first point of call for many New Zealand firms looking to expand overseas due to the common language, regulatory environments and similar, albeit different, cultural norms. From an international organizations point of view, these similarities are compounded. Mainfreight’s chairman Bruce Plested stated that multinationals often view both New Zealand and Australia as just one market making Australia a logical first stepping stone in Mainfreight’s overseas expansion. Up until 2010 Mainfreight’s expansion had focused on extending the New Zealand part of the company’s global reach.

Statistics New Zealand (2013) states that “New Zealand depends heavily on international trade, especially with especially with Australia, China, the United States, and Japan” and unsurprisingly these are the countries (excluding Japan) that Mainfreight has expanded into. The cultural differences between New Zealand and the Chinese and American markets are much more significant than those between the New Zealand and Australian markets or other traditional trading partners such as Britain.

However, the sheer weight of imports and exports flowing into and out of these countries has made them obvious candidates for Mainfreight to expand into as it seeks to expand into markets complementary to the existing business. The purchase of Wim Bosman is interesting in that it is not a purchase that would traditionally be seen as complementary to Mainfreight’s New Zealand business when compared to markets such as Japan with whom New Zealand has significantly more trade.

However, the opening of European markets could be seen as complimentary to Mainfreight’s US and Chinese operations in particular as these operations continue to grow, evolve and mature. 4) What are some of the risks associated with the approaches to foreign direct investment and the markets Mainfreight has chosen to enter? Mainfreight experienced Liability of Foreignness when it first entered the Australian market place. As outlined in my response to Question 1, firms, especially large ones would not give Mainfreight a chance unless they were seen to employ Australians.

This was an inherent disadvantage of being a foreign company entering a new market in a “greenfield” capacity. Later Mainfreight expansion addressed some of these risks through the use of Joint Ventures in foreign markets such as China, Hong Kong and in the purchase of CaroTrans in the USA. As Mainfreight’s market entry strategy changed towards wholly owning their subsidiaries, some of these risks arose again. Mainfreight’s approach in fully acquiring existing business often helped to minimize these dangers as Mainfreight was not competing for a piece of the existing market share as it was previously with its greenfield entry into Australia.

Mainfreight has not adopted a consistent approach to renaming businesses it has taken over. For example Target Logistics was renamed as Mainfreight USA, whilst the Wim Bosman acquisition has retained the company’s original branding possibly helping to overcome some of the cultural negativity foreign firms experience in other host countries. As a smaller New Zealand based multinational in the service industry Mainfreight has managed to mitigate many of risks that may apply to other companies, however currency risks and rivalry among competing firms are areas Mainfreight is still susceptible to.

Regulatory risks are still very real however probably lesser in geographies such as Australia, the EU and New Zealand than they are the United States and China. 5) Relative to smaller logistics providers in New Zealand what are the main advantages Mainfreight enjoys from its MNE status? Peng (2014) refers to firms having OLI advantages or Ownership, Location and Internalization advantages. Using Peng’s framework, relative to non-multinationals operating in the New Zealand logistics industry, Mainfreight has the following advantages.

Ownership Mainfreight benefits in that it has control and ownership of a significant part of the supply chain compared to say a New Zealand domestic transport company or a New Zealand warehousing provider. Mainfreight is able to compete with these non-multinationals by offering the convenience of an all in one managed solution to its clients or alternative competing on price with non-multinationals in their market as Mainfreight may be able to cross subsidise certain parts of its business.

For example, Mainfreight may sell New Zealand warehousing services at a loss if it guarantees means they may win a customer’s lucrative freighting business. Location Mainfreight’s advantages over a non multinational from a location perspective are much harder to determine. As a service industry Mainfreight would find it hard to capitalize on Natural resources, low cost efficiencies and innovation, however there may be some advantages gained through having a global presence and subjecting Mainfreight’s brand to a global audience.

This means Mainfreight could have a distinct advantage over non multinational logistics providers as potential customers (particularly large global ones) are more likely to know of Mainfreight’s operations. Internalization Some of the benefits Mainfreight experiences here are similar to the Ownership benefits outlined above. By not having to pay external suppliers margins on different services within a customer’s supply chain, Mainfreight can potentially offer more competitive services and retain profits inhouse. References Collinson, S. and Rugman, A. (2007).

The regional character of Asian multinational enterprises. APJM, Ch. 24. Pp. 429-446. C. W. Downer ; Co. (2007, September 18). Target Logistics, Inc. , Agrees to be acquired by Mainfreight Limited. Retrieved from http://www. cwdowner. com/index. php? option=com_content;view=article;id=72;Itemid=31 Deloitte. (2012, November 29). Top 200 Companies Awards Reflect Future Direction for NZ Enterprise. Retrieved from http://www. deloitte. com/view/en_NZ/nz/news-room/3ee15be7bf94b310VgnVCM2000003356f70aRCRD. htm Fairfax NZ News. (2008, November 26). Mainfreight’s Plested wins Beacon Award.

Retrieved from http://www. stuff. co. nz/business/735585 Kennedy, Graeme. (2000, March 17). Mainfreight develops major logistics operation. Retrieved from http://www. sharechat. co. nz/article/69e6e5bb/mainfreight-develops-major-logistics-operation. html Linkedin. (2013, February 28). Mainfreight. Retrieved from http://www. linkedin. com/company/mainfreight? trk=top_nav_home Mainfreight Limited. (1996) Mainfreight Limited Prospectus. Retrieved from http://epublishbyus. com/ebook/ebook? id=10005147#/4 Mainfreight Limited. (1997, July 2). Annual Report 1997. Retrieved from

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