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Knight-Swift enters LTL arena with $1.35B acquisition of AAA Cooper

Deal expected to be immediately accretive to earnings

Knight-Swift acquires AAA Cooper in $1.35 billion deal (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The nation’s largest truckload carrier, Knight-Swift Transportation (NYSE: KNX), announced Tuesday it has acquired less-than-truckload carrier AAA Cooper Transportation in a transaction with an enterprise value of $1.35 billion.

Dothan, Alabama-based AAA Cooper is expected to generate full-year 2021 revenue of $780 million, $140 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) and $80 million in operating income. The deal is expected to add 13 cents per share to Knight-Swift’s adjusted earnings in the second half of 2021 and 29 cents per share to earnings in 2022.

The transaction amount implies an acquisition multiple of less than 10x EBITDA.

Click for full article – Trucking M&A deals getting bigger; Knight-Swift takes on LTL

AAA Cooper has a very large regional LTL network in the Southeast and Midwest with 70 facilities, more than 3,400 doors and 4,800 employees. The carrier has a fleet of 3,000 tractors and 7,000 trailers and provides nationwide service through affiliates. AAA Cooper has recently been operating at a high-80% to low-90% operating ratio.

“We have long had interest in the LTL space and admired the success of AAA Cooper. We feel honored to be stewards of the AAA Cooper brand and, similar to previous acquisitions, AAA Cooper will continue to operate independently while benefiting from the many synergies we expect through Knight-Swift,” said Dave Jackson, Knight-Swift CEO.

Jackson said the criteria for selecting the LTL company as a partner included its significant market share, profitability makeup and a management team that could operate independently.

“We were excited to have identified AAA Cooper as a partner that meets all three requirements, and I couldn’t be happier to finally find the right time for both of us to create a partnership. This transaction firmly positions us as a meaningful player in the LTL space, where we intend to grow both organically and through future acquisitions,” Jackson added.

The transaction was funded with $1.3 billion in cash, which came from a new $1.2 billion term loan as well as existing liquidity, $10 million in Knight-Swift stock and the assumption of $40 million in net debt.

Acquisition price$1.35B enterprise value
Combined value~$9B enterprise value
Target revenue run rate$780M
Acquirer revenue run rate$4.7B
Expected cost synergiesTBA
Earnings expectations/accretion$0.13 in H2/21, $0.29 in 2022
Recent acquisitions by acquirerUTXL, Eleos, Abilene Motor Express, Swift Transportation
Financingdebt, cash, stock
Table: Company reports

No specifics on potential cost and revenue synergies were provided but Knight-Swift will host a call at 10:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday to discuss the transaction further.

AAA Cooper will report results as a standalone division of Knight-Swift with current CEO Reid Dove remaining at the helm. Dove has also been appointed to Knight-Swift’s board.

“Joining the Knight-Swift team is an exciting combination for the AAA Cooper team members and customers,” stated Dove. “It will allow us to pursue new opportunities and accelerate our growth. We will continue to operate as an independent company, headquartered in Dothan, Alabama, and will do so with the support and partnership of the strongest provider in the full truckload space.”

Scudder Law Firm was the legal adviser to Knight-Swift, with SJ Consulting Group providing advisory services.

Click for full article – Trucking M&A deals getting bigger; Knight-Swift takes on LTL

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Todd Maiden.


  1. Stephen Webster

    We need to have all swift O T R drivers at 60 cents per mile and minimum wage rates of $23.60 U S per hour plus overtime. Local delivery drivers should have air conditioning and a minimum rate $20.00 us plus a good medical care plan.

  2. Tcs53

    Beginning of the end for AAA Cooper. When is the last time a truckload carrier was successful in the LTL world? I’m really surprised that they got $1.3 billion. They’re really a small player in the Chicago area.

  3. Tony McLester

    The rich get richer and poorer get poorer. It’s like Clint Eastwood says, “My way or the highway”. You can bet your sweetass, they will run off the old timers bring in their team players and drive on Tyrone. This corporate crap has went on for years and years, has not just started. It is happening everyday. The Dove’s have been super wealty every since Grandaddy Dove. The Dove clan has never had to worry about a thing in Dothan, Al. This is Life.

  4. Mo Fo

    Swift has a reputation for poor pay, hiring anyone with a heartbeat, employee abuse and less than safe drivers. Just watch You tube…
    If they bring this to the LTL world AAA will be a union carrier is a matter of weeks. Or be out of business…

Comments are closed.

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.