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Heartland Express acquires CFI assets for $525 million

Deal expected to create 8th-largest US truckload fleet

Heartland Express announced Monday the acquisition of Contract Freighters Inc.’s (CFI) truckload unit and its logistics unit in Mexico from TFI International for $525 million. The deal does not include CFI’s dedicated trucking business or its U.S. brokerage operations.

The combination will make Heartland (NASDAQ: HTLD) the eighth-largest TL fleet and the third-largest asset-based, irregular route carrier in the U.S., with approximately 5,550 tractors, 17,800 trailers and $1.3 billion in annual revenue.

Joplin, Missouri-based CFI generated approximately $575 million in revenue for the 12-month period ended June 30. Heartland said the deal price implies a 5x enterprise value-to-adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization multiple.

Click “Heartland Express embarks on its biggest challenge yet”

Acquisition price$525M cash enterprise value
Target revenue run rate$575M (LTM)
Heartland revenue run rate$640M (LTM)
Earnings expectations“immediately accretive”
Recent acquisitions by HeartlandSmith Transport, Millis Transfer, Gordon Trucking and Interstate Distributor
Financingcash and debt
Table: Company reports

CFI provides dry van and temperature-controlled TL services to customers throughout North America with a fleet of 2,100 tractors and 8,000 trailers. The company also employs approximately 250 independent contractors, which operate their own equipment. CFI’s cross-border Mexico unit has operations at five major points of entry along the U.S. southern border. CFI Logistica provides asset-light TL and less-than-truckload services in Mexico.

CFI will continue to operate under its current banner with the same management team.

“We are thrilled to welcome CFI to the Heartland Express family of companies, where it will continue to operate from Joplin under its own brand and current leadership team,” Michael Gerdin, chairman, president and CEO at Heartland, stated in a news release. “CFI has exactly what we look for as we expand — significant scale, a respected and recognizable brand, capable management, safe and experienced drivers, a strong asset base and a complementary terminal network.”

The deal will be immediately accretive to earnings. The transaction will be funded by cash and Heartland’s new $550 million revolving and term loan agreement. Following the closing, Heartland expects to have a net leverage ratio of approximately 1.25x with $160 million in liquidity.

Heartland said the operating plan calls for a consolidated adjusted operating ratio of 85% or better within three years of closing, with all debt incurred funding the deal to be paid off within four years.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the third quarter.

“This transaction is a true ‘win-win-win’ for TFI, for CFI and for Heartland Express,” said Alain Bedard, chairman, CEO and president of Montreal-headquartered TFI (NYSE: TFII). “CFI is a great company, but the U.S. irregular route truckload business has become a small part of our portfolio. CFI’s people have been a small part of big companies for the past 15 years, and we wanted to find them a permanent home with a leader in the asset-based truckload industry to show what they can accomplish.”

TFI will redeploy capital from this transaction to focus on its U.S.-based LTL, asset-light logistics and specialized TL units. In a separate release, it said its 2022 full-year earnings per share guidance of $8 remains unchanged.

The joint book runners on the deal were JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Heartland will hold a conference call to discuss the transaction at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday.

More FreightWaves articles by Todd Maiden

Watch: Heartland Express to acquire Contract Freighters’ truckload business from TFI International

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes J.B. Hunt (No. 4), Heartland Express (No. 35) and Smith Transport (No. 95).

18 Comments

  1. I don’t what yall heard I been with Heartland for 17 years running regional out of Columbus and like it hear most of yall complain about anything and probably at a worst company

  2. I would to offer any CFI drivers a another option here at Barnes Transportation, we have openings for Lease Maintenance drivers Company and percentage drivers. We also have other divisions we can offer as well, please feel to email me or call at 252-291-8282 ext. 242 P.S we are pet friendly.

  3. I signed on to CFI had just got bought by Conway truckload then they got bought out by xpo we were told daily that xpo was looking to sale the truckload load division they didnt want us and they started out sourcing the good loads to then sold truckload back to CFI now we are sold again im not sticking around for this one I’m leaving this is crazy!!!

  4. I wish someone had of bought Celadon I drove for them for 11 years until I was forced to retire from driving in September 2011 for medical reasons.now I have seen all the companies I drove for go old of business I dove for 27 years.i drove for Jaylines for 2 yrs Tandy Transportation/Radio Shack for 15 and for Celadon Trucking . Tandy Transportation And Celadon where great Companies to work for

  5. It’s a very sad day for CFI and it’s drivers…to come under the control of a VICIOUS, GREED CONTROLLED, ABUSIVE co. like Heartland. CFI was one of the decent co.s (worked there a few years).

    TR SORVLET Director
    otrtruckersguild@gmail.com

    1. I started with Conway have gone thru the changes. Been with CFI 10 years now. Hit my million in June. That being said I really don’t want to change jobs BUT I will if Heartland tries to change us to no pet. They will lose many drivers. I have no one to take care of my pup and I’ll be dammed if I’ll look into her eyes and leave her in a shelter. I know Heartland is no pet but the drivers who work for them knew this when taking the job. I hope Heartland doesn’t become Heartless and expect us to give up our pets

      1. I worked for Conway and went through the changes also. (It got worse under XPO – he didn’t want truckload). Sorry you may have to make a job change, but many might need to. Also worked at Heartland…THE WORST Co.!! It’s well known with drivers that they are one to AVOID. The only way they can get drivers is to buy a co., …as drivers get disgusted and leave, …they make money off the huge turnover with inflated/ illegal tax write-offs! Then they sell the empty equipment to improve profits more. Many will be hurt…the substantial stress of a job change! A company with NO PRINCIPLES!!

        TR SORVLET DIRECTOR
        otrtruckersguild@gmail.com

      2. Hey, if this does happen please reach out to me! We have a 2018 peterbilt becoming available in 2 weeks. It is a glider, so ELD exempt. We run dry van in the midwest and east mainly. reliablesourceti@gmail.com

          1. Heartland…try to get your story straight…first it was 42 years then 32 with them. Even 6 months of their abuse- anyone would be a BASKET CASE!!

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Todd Maiden

Based in Richmond, VA, Todd is the finance editor at FreightWaves. Prior to joining FreightWaves, he covered the TLs, LTLs, railroads and brokers for RBC Capital Markets and BB&T Capital Markets. Todd began his career in banking and finance before moving over to transportation equity research where he provided stock recommendations for publicly traded transportation companies.