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Going for growth

GEODIS is looking for growth, with increasing production in Eastern Europe and booming e-commerce key drivers, as Helen Massy-Beresford finds out

French logistics group GEODIS has a long history, with close ties to the company it was born out of, French railway operator SNCF. The company has since widened its scope and now offers a broad range of services, from freight forwarding – ocean, air and a combination of the two – to road and rail transport, supply chain logistics, distribution, express delivery and contract logistics.

Matthias Hansen, Regional Vice-President Europe, Middle East & Africa at GEODIS Freight Forwarding, whose region extends as far east as Russia and as far south as South Africa, explains that for the freight forwarding side of the business, Eastern Europe is growing in importance, even if the company already has a good spread of coverage across the continent.

“In Europe we’re in all countries. In Sweden we are No. 1 in the freight forwarding market. We have others where there is some room for improvement, such as Germany, not from a quality perspective but from a size perspective. We are definitely investing further to tie in Eastern Europe because it is becoming more and more an integral part of Europe and we see more and more production coming out of those areas.”

The group is also working to strengthen a key “triangle” between its London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt gateways, Hansen says, with Paris remaining an important location. “As the market side in air freight is, to say the least, challenging, we are very „ much concentrated on making sure that our existing customers are served to the best of our ability.”

The freight forwarding part of GEODIS’ business – which has over 9,300 employees – handles 330,000 tons of air freight and 690,000 TEUs ocean freight per year, spread over 80,000 customers worldwide.

Forwarding activities are split roughly 50/50 between ocean and air freight, and the proportions for European imports and exports are roughly the same, he says. “We try to make sure that we grow on all modes of transport in order to be able to counterbalance if certain market tendencies complicate our lives, and so that we are able to benefit from opportunities.”  

Hansen thinks it will be some time before industry bottlenecks in Eastern Europe are eased, and says this is an important area for GEODIS.

“This is what we want to focus on: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – and we have also started Romania – but of course Poland is the big market.”

GEODIS also has plans for growth in Turkey, admittedly a delicate market to operate in for the moment, as well as in Russia. “In Russia our set-up is pretty good, but we are still waiting for the moment when growth picks up again and sanctions are not a burden for our development, which is still the case,” Hansen says.

And looking further east, the company intends to make use of its rail heritage to link up with growing Asian markets.

The group also wants to strengthen its presence in the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. “They will develop and will come back. We are keeping an eye on it to see what potential there is.”

GEODIS makes a point of listening to what its customers want in terms of presence on the ground. “That’s one of our main objectives, to be where our customers are and to go with them to new markets,”  Hansen explains. >>

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