"During the summer of 2015 and into the fall we joked around in the department that a new acquisition was probably in the works," Tina Hindsbo tells ShippingWatch.Hindsbo is Senior Manager of Corporate Communication at DSV, and one week before heading out on a week's vacation to Malaga in October 2015, she was suddenly pulled aside by her boss. Something was happening at the company.
The discussions with US-based UTi Worldwide had been resumed and it seemed that this time a deal would be reached.
Hindsbo therefore had to decide whether to cancel her vacation or be ready to come straight home if necessary.
"I thought: I'll go. The talks with UTi had been fruitless before and maybe the same thing would happen this time," she says.
Failed acquisition talks
In December 2014, DSV had to issue a corporate statement to calm the markets.
Over a long period of time, CEO Jens Bjørn Andersen had intimated that the Danish logistics firm was interested in acquistiions. And it seemed likely that these would be big purchases. When news agency Bloomberg reported that DSV had been negotiating with US-based UTi Worldwide for a takeover, DSV had to react.It was true that the talks had taken place. But the communication had ended, DSV wrote in the statement.
The acquisition would have doubled the size of the Danish logistics major and constituted a billion-dollar transaction.
Since the end of 2014, no news emerged about potential acquisitions and negotiations, and talks were kept behind close doors by the executive team.
A new development in the matter was unfolding during Hindsbo's vacation in Malaga.
"E-mails starting flooding my inbox. At first just a little on the first day of vacation and then more and more. It got intense. And I called the office Wednesday and asked if I should get a new return ticket. 'You may want to come home now'," they said. So I flew home very early Thursday morning," she says.
Extremely important not to leak
From the time she landed, it was straight to work. The UTi acquisition would be settled, but it would not be announced until Friday morning, Oct. 9.
"Things can change almost until the last minute before that type of announcement. But we had to have the package ready – both for internal and external communication. Content, including even punctuation, was altered right up until the deadline in all documents, because the internal communication need to completely reflect what is announced externally," says Hindsbo, adding:
"Meanwhile, it's extremely important to keep everything confidential. Under no circumstance can this be leaked."
Senior Manager of Corporate Communication at DSV, Tina Hindsbo, was suddenly busy when DSV bought UTi Worldwide last year. Photo: DSV.
DSV's headquarters in Danish city Hedehusene is a new office building, built with a large atrium in the middle of the building open to all stories. On the third and top floors, the communication department and the executive management are located. These floors were hustling and bustling 24/7 at that time.
"It was not that hard to hide that we were working on something big because most of our coworkers would go home after normal business hours, so they didn't notice the activity around the board room. But of course when news has emerged of a potential acquisition before, you're nervous that it might happen again. So for a long time, there were very few people who even knew that the talks had been resumed with UTi. Then the number of people who knew anything throughout the entire period was kept to a minimum," says Hindsbo.
A lot of dedication
DSV succeeded in keeping the news under wraps until the announcement was released. And while the first days of work had been hectic, a much larger process had now begun.
Ahead of the acquisition's approval by the relevant authorities in late January 2016, the communication work was massive.
"There was a series of communication tasks which constantly had to be reviewed by UTi's headquarters in the US – not least because we had to make sure that both companies communicated the same thing. During the period, in which the acquisition was not yet finalized until January 2016, there were very specific rules for how much, and with whom in UTi, that DSV could coordinate, but we were allowed to collaborate on communication."
Things got hectic in January and when it's hectic, then there is potential for mistakes to happen.
"We were very busy at the end. You're preparing all kinds of drafts of things like letters to customers, letters to district managers. Things got hectic in January and when it's hectic, then there is a potential for mistakes to happen. So we worked with the details and there was a lot of dedication in doing it right," says Hindsbo, characterizing the communication surrounding the whole takeover as a "final exam" for DSV's group communications department, which was established in 2014.
Now it is about culture
After the acquisition was approved, the communication regarding the takeover calmed down, both internally and externally.
"Most commas and periods were fixed up right before the approval in January 2016, then it was mainly about communicating the combined business internally and externally, as well as working to communicate on UTi's intranet. Now that the integration of the two companies is a reality, it's more about the communication of culture and values on the inside, but overall in communication, we're back to "business as usual" in the communication department," says Hindsbo.
This article is part of ShippingWatch's series about how maritime companies handle their communication during a time where the public is watching businesses and their way of handling things more than ever. Read the other articles in the series here:
English Edit: Gretchen Deverell Pedersen