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logistics Technology appears to be commanding more attention

Thursday, February 9, 2017 5:11
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Technology appears to be commanding more attention in the logistics mergers-and-acquisitions arena. Toyota Industries Corp.’s $260 million agreement to buy Indianapolis-based Bastian Solutions LLC marks the latest logistics-sector deal with sophisticated technology at its center, WSJ Logistics Report’s Erica E. Phillips writes. The manufacturer of forklifts and industrial machinery, says it is making a “full-scale” entry into the North American logistics technology sector by picking up the warehouse automation and robotics developer. Toyota will use Bastian’s systems to make its own global supply chain more efficient, but the bigger impact may come in expanding the warehouse automation services it brings customers. The deal follows the Kion Group AG purchase last year of U.S.-based Dematic Corp. and Amazon.com Inc.’s 2012 buyout of Kiva Systems Inc.—deals that spotlighted the increasing importance of technology and automation in distribution centers.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is taking the slow path toward building up its African supply chain. The retailing giant bought into the continent with its $2.4 billion purchase in 2011 of South African big-box retailer Massmart Holdings Ltd., but the WSJ’s Alexandra Wexler reports Massmart has added only 13 of its destination-type outlets since then. That’s a contrast with fast-moving competitors—and with the rapid-growth strategy Wal-Mart has taken in other developing markets. Massmart says the company is taking a “deliberate” approach after watching other retailers pay a steep price after rushing into African market. So far, however, Massmart’s supply chain and marketing remain largely independent of Wal-Mart. The company is pursuing initiatives where its parent can lend expertise, such as online shopping and “click and collect” capabilities in a part of the world where such activity is still uncommon. But the impetus for those efforts appears to be coming from Massmart, not from Wal-Mart.

It looks like Hasbro Inc. won the holiday inventory-management game. The toy maker reported a nearly-10% jump in profit in the fourth quarter on an 11% increase in revenue, the WSJ’s Paul Ziobro reports, and avoided the last-minute discounting that rival Mattel Inc. needed to clear its excess inventory from store shelves. Mattel was hit hard as shoppers waited until the last minute to buy gifts, prompting retailers to cut prices, but Hasbro was helped by the popularity of its product lineup and says discounting wasn’t out of line with previous years. Inventories were a big focus for retailers heading into the 2016 holidays after an excessive buildup the year before, and the toy company results show a big contrast in outcomes. Mattel held 4.4% more in goods on its balance sheet at the end of last year even as annual sales declined. Hasbro’s inventory holdings edged up only slightly from year to year while sales were growing.

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