Belgium airport fears TNT departure, eyes FedEx deal

PHOTO: Belgium airport fears TNT departure, eyes FedEx deal

BRUSSELS - Belgium's Liege airport, one of Europe's busiest freight hubs, hopes to entice US parcel delivery firm FedEx away from Paris airports should Dutch firm TNT Express depart for Germany.

The head of the Liege airport board, Jose Happart, told daily newspaper La Libre on Saturday that the airport was eyeing a deal with FedEx should the Dutch company go as the result of a looming tie-up with US delivery giant United Parcel Service (UPS).

UPS launched a 5.16-billion-euro ($6.71 billion) takeover bid for TNT Express last year.

If approved by EU anti-trust authorities, UPS could well decide to move the Dutch firm's Liege operations - involving some 2,000 jobs - to its own UPS hub in Cologne, in order to streamline services and management.

"If TNT goes there is another big company, FedEx, which is currently based in Paris," said Happart. "We will try to attract it here in part."

But he added that "if TNT were to leave Liege Airport, it would likely not be a total withdrawal."

UPS said in November that it had amended its multi-billion-euro bid for TNT Express to meet EU conditions and close the deal by next year.

The European Commission competition authorities said last year they were worried that the proposed merger would reduce the number of so-called integrators from four to three and lead to a highly concentrated market for domestic and international express delivery services.

UPS and TNT Express are major players in the sector for delivery of small packages and are two of four firms with a comprehensive air and road delivery network on the continent.

Others present in Europe are DHL, owned by Deutsche Post, and FedEx, a US-based company.

The deal is expected to put UPS ahead of its two competitors as it would strengthen its position in Europe and globally.

TNT Express is a global player operating in more than 200 countries and maintains a leading role in the road freight network in Europe.

UPS is the world's biggest package-shipping group, with annual revenues in 2011 of $53.1 billion and 400,000 employees.