Paulo Duarte invests ten million in the purchase of two companies in Spain
The Portuguese carrier, which is also looking at the markets of Poland and the Czech Republic, wants to invoice close to 200 million in 2025. Relocation of premises to Carregado foreseen by the end of the year.
The Paulo Duarte Group, which specialises in transporting food products and dangerous goods, has acquired Spain’s HRBG – Energy Logistics and HurTrans – Transporte de Líquidos Alimentares, in a global investment of 10 million euros, said Gustavo Paulo Duarte, managing director of the Portuguese company. These acquisitions in Alicante, materialised at the end of 2021, were the culmination of a plan that had been prepared over the last three years with the aim of gaining weight in the Iberian Peninsula. “Paulo Duarte’s capacity for growth was becoming limited in view of the size of the Portuguese market,” and the opportunity arose “to acquire these companies and strengthen in areas where we are already leaders,” justified the businessman.” This year, the group expects to record consolidated turnover of at least €108 million, with the parent company worth €62 million, or 57%. But the aim is that, in the short term, the operation in Spain will weigh 60% of the business.
For now, the Portuguese airline, which took over the management of the Spanish companies last December, is focused on boosting synergies between the various companies, increasing efficiency and improving resource management, with a view to sustained business growth and an increase in invoicing. HRBG, in which Paulo Duarte bought a 51% stake, reinforced the national group’s activity in the hazardous materials area (chemicals, oils, fuels) and HurTrans, acquired in 100%, brought in the logistics of the juice area. As Gustavo Paulo Duarte highlighted, “we were already Iberian leaders in the transportation of bulk food liquids (oils, wines, olive oil, milk…) and now we have bought the biggest competitor, which had the transportation of juices, which we did not have”. And, as he emphasised, the integration “is going very well”, now “we are one of the biggest in Europe”.
The Paulo Duarte group, which moves 1,100 trucks and employs over 1,300 people, will centralise its operations in Carregado, where it has acquired a 13-hectare plot of land to build new offices and an accommodation unit for employees. The plan for the coming years is one of continuous growth, with the manager admitting that, by 2025, turnover will be close to 200 million. And internationalisation shouldn’t stop with Spain. As he said, “we need to dominate the Southern European market, but also areas such as Poland and the Czech Republic”.
Shortage of drivers
Future prospects at Paula Duarte are encouraging, although the sector is going through a critical moment, the businessman pointed out. “The agri-food industry is growing and you don’t see the logistics chain keeping up with this growth.” In fact, “in recent years, there has been a loss of installed capacity in the country. There are no trucks, no drivers and the market is growing without support”. As he stressed, “carriers have cash-flow problems: 88% of costs (salaries and fuel) are paid in cash and customers pay in 90 or 120 days. This makes companies disappear”. The sector is also facing the uncertain environment that has gripped economies, with inflation soaring, interest rates rising and the shadow of a recession in Europe.
At Paulo Duarte, transport prices to the client have increased between 10 and 13% since the beginning of the year, “but it is not enough to pay for the increase in costs”. As he recalled, fuel alone represents 33% and the price has been on a vertiginous escalation. “As a consumer, I wonder if we will have the capacity to pay for all that is coming – inflation at 10%, rising interest rates…” The manager also recalled the huge shortage of drivers in Europe, pointing to a shortage of 80 to 100 thousand professionals. “This is a structural problem, to which is currently added the conjunctural one.” In his opinion, it is not easy to recruit, although today “you no longer work 10 and 15 hours as you did 20 years ago, the trucks are different and the sector pays to compensate for the hours you are away from home. A driver earns between 1400 and 1800 euros net per month”. For Gustavo Paulo Duarte, it is essential “to value the profession”, and companies “have worked hard to dignify it”. Now, “it doesn’t make sense that it’s only possible to get a truck licence from the age of 21 – two years are immediately lost”.
In this context, the carrier’s expansion in Spain came at a good time: the group gained scale and increased the profitability of the business. “Today people are looking for capacity, professionalism, and we are investing to give that response to customers,” including in terms of environmental sustainability, he said.” In the run-up to 2021, the group acquired 181 state-of-the-art vehicles, in an investment of 15 million, and in the last two years has managed to reduce its ecological footprint by 30%. Gustavo Paulo Duarte would like to see these efforts rewarded. “There is no support whatsoever, either in the RRP or in Portugal 2020, and we need to support companies in the transition, create mechanisms that promote the market to take the leap and make these investments.”