Envirotainer, major cold-chain player, changes ownership

Cinven buys out previous owner, reportedly for over €1 billion


Envirotainer, the pioneering firm in air-cargo-ready containers for cold chain shipments, has a new majority owner, Cinven, a London-based private equity firm. The Wall St. Journal reported that Cinven paid over €1 billion (about $1.17 billion) to buy out a previous private-equity firm, AAC Capital, according to “a person familiar with the matter.”

The usual next step for a private equity firm is to take one of its properties public, or to hand it off to an industrial concern—but going from one private equity firm to another is not that unusual either. The Cinven statement about the acquisition says that “Envirotainer has a strong business model with excellent growth prospects and shares key characteristics with many of Cinven’s successful Business Services investments [that] provide mission-critical services to a diverse customer base in growing market niches, and benefit from long-term recurring revenue streams.” Pending regulatory approvals, Cinven will add to Envirotainer by “developing its technology and expanding its container fleet and global service network.”

Envirotainer introduced its first cold-chain “unit load device” (as they are called) in 1995, and followed that with powered (active) containers. Today, it employs over 300, and has over than 5,500 ULDs in commercial use globally. And while Cinven is counting on the “high barriers to entry” of the pharma ULD market, competition for shipping temperature-sensitive pharma freight internationally is growing: CSafe Global, DoKaSch and va-Q-tec also manufacture ULDs, and pharma clients are looking more closely at passive containers as well as ocean freight in containers. Pharmaceutical Commerce, in its annual Biopharma Cold Chain Sourcebook, has estimates that pharma cold-chain logistics is currently at $15 billion, and will grow by 12.7% this year.