Imperial Logistics is planning to acquire transportation firm J&J Africa ahead of its own takeover by DP World.

The South Africa-based company is holding talks to buy the business from its private equity owners, it said in a statement Tuesday that confirmed an earlier Bloomberg News report. There is no certainty that any agreement will be struck, Imperial said.

A deal, if completed, could value J&J at $350 million to $400 million, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information.

J&J provides transport and logistics services across five African countries, including Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was bought by Carlyle Group and Investec Asset Management — now rebranded as Ninety One Plc — in 2014. J&J was valued at $200 million at the time, the people said.

Since last year, Carlyle’s interest has been managed by Alterra Capital Partners, a spin out of the buyout giant, and Ninety One’s holding by Ethos Private Equity.

Representatives for Alterra, Carlyle and Ethos declined to comment, while a spokesperson for Ninety One referred calls to Ethos. A representative for J&J didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

A purchase of Mozambique-based J&J would be one of Imperial’s largest to date, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and would boost its presence on the continent just as it prepares to come under new ownership. Dubai-based ports operator DP World this month said it would buy Imperial in what will be its most significant acquisition in Africa.

DP World said the deal demonstrated long-term confidence in the South African economy despite recent challenges. The country has this month seen violent riots after the arrest of its former President Jacob Zuma. Talks between Imperial and J&J were ongoing before the DP World announcement, the people said.

Imperial said in its statement that a purchase of J&J would require the approval of DP World. A representative for DP World declined to comment.

Imperial started as a small motor dealership in 1940s Johannesburg and now employs more than 25 000 people around the world. Under Chief Executive Officer Mohammed Akoojee, it’s been looking to position itself as the gateway to Africa for transporting goods. (News24-21 Jul 2021)