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Delivery group that serves south-east Asia's remote villages weighs IPO


IPOs updates

Ninja Van, a logistics group that has used motorcycles, boats and even water buffaloes to deliver 1.7m parcels every day across south-east Asia, is considering an initial public offering as early as next year after being valued at $1bn.

Backed by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital, Ninja Van’s growth in revenue and orders has surged thanks to an ecommerce boom fuelled by south-east Asia’s 400m internet users.

Armed with 34,000 employees and 1,800 sorting stations, the seven-year-old company specialises in delivering to the thousands of smaller cities and remote villages across south-east Asia that international couriers struggle to serve. Despite coronavirus pandemic-enforced lockdowns, daily shipments have grown from 1m in May 2020 to 1.7m in July.

Chang Wen Lai, one of Ninja Van’s co-founders, told the Financial Times the company was “a year away” from an IPO.

Two people familiar with Ninja Van’s plans said it had approached advisers to start discussions on the process, with the US being the most likely venue for a listing.

Ninja Van has not disclosed its valuation but one of the people said it had passed $1bn following its $279m funding round last year. The company is almost break-even and targeting profitability in 2022.

A Ninja Van driver delivers a parcel to a customer in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao © Ninja Van

Ninja Van has benefited from an ecommerce boom in south-east Asia. Total sales value for merchandise sold online in the region rose 63 per cent to $62bn in 2020, according to an analysis by Google, Singapore state-backed investor Temasek and consultancy Bain.

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Companies across the region are increasingly pushing into the logistics space, including ride-hailing companies Gojek and Grab and even Tony Fernandes’s AirAsia.

Ninja Van hopes to distinguish itself through its extensive delivery networks. Lai said the company’s couriers can deliver to south-east Asia’s most remote regions, which most competitors cannot access on a large scale.

Ninja Van also uses technology to allow sellers to see their performance and customers to track parcels using platforms such as Facebook.

Karen Almenana, who manages a Ninja Van station in Cagayan de Oro in the Philippine southern island of Mindanao, said delivery volumes had increased 150 per cent in the past 12 months.

Her drivers deliver parcels across unpaved mountains, rice fields and oceans, and even during typhoons. A driver once used a carabao, a type of water buffalo used to plough fields, to travel across tricky terrain, she said.

Drivers are tested for “hand and eye co-ordination” and their ability to balance parcels in precarious circumstances, Almenana added.

Anna Manatnant, a 29-year-old Bangkok-based influencer who sells shoes and second-hand clothes online via platforms Instagram and Shopee, said low prices and customer service were among the reasons she picked Ninja Van.

But Jeffrey Seah, a partner at Singapore-based venture capital firm Quest Ventures, pointed to price competition as a significant challenge for upstart delivery groups.

“Generally, logistics is a price-war game. It’s an expensive battle for market share, perhaps even a winner-take-all battle,” Seah said.

“Some of the ecommerce companies are also starting their own logistics services, partly aimed at stopping incumbent players from raising prices.”

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