Mr. Thewes, Schenker has now been under the umbrella of for 20 years German train. Was that a good time?
I can’t judge the whole 20 years, only the last twelve. I see this time clearly positive. the logistics is an industry with a lot of change, with a lot of dynamism. Many large logistics companies have disappeared from the market because they were taken over. We might also have been a potential takeover candidate. You have to say that DB has been a very stable shareholder over the years, a stabilizing factor – and has always supported our business.
Many critics ask themselves: How does a company that operates on the road, in the air and on water fit into a railway company?
If we are completely honest, the synergies between our companies are manageable. What positive effects there are, we have leveraged and developed over the last few years – above all through intermodal transport, which combines truck transport with container transport by rail. DB Cargo was our biggest partner and we were also their biggest customer. DB Cargo now wants to develop into a rail logistician. Therefore, the overlap with the railway has become a bit smaller.
That means: You don’t really fit in with Deutsche Bahn anymore?
Whether we fit the track or not is for others to judge, it’s not my decision. But the fact is: we are stronger today than we were a few years ago. The railway gave Schenker the stability we needed to develop to where we are today – as one of the three or four largest logistics companies in the world.
And that, in turn, is good for Deutsche Bahn: Today, Schenker is the jewel in the group that brings in the profits.
Yes that’s right. But there are completely different challenges in terms of business. The last ten, 15, 20 years were the years of globalization, very strong years internationally, with growth in Asia. Global logisticians have benefited greatly from this. And we’ve grown into one of the top companies in the industry.
The pandemic in particular gave a strong boost – the industry was a huge beneficiary of Corona because transport prices rose dramatically. Can you use the freight rates in shipping as an example?
In August 2019/2020 we were still at 2000 dollars for a container in Asia-Europe traffic. At peak times last year we sometimes had to pay the shipping company more than 20,000.
A top deal.
Yes, but also with a high risk. When we expanded capacities, for example in air traffic, we didn’t know at the beginning: would the demand remain at all? We decided very early on to enter freight capacities on a large scale. And at the beginning the planes weren’t full either, so we also made losses. The effort we had to bring a sea freight container from Shanghai to Frankfurt has increased many times over. Our productivity did not increase during this time, the effort per shipment was significantly higher.
Nevertheless, you saved DB’s balance sheet last year, for example, with a profit in the billions. Are your colleagues a little jealous?