The pace of transportation and logistics mergers and acquisitions accelerated during the second quarter of the year, as measured by both announced value and volume, according to a new report from accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, but don’t expect records to be broken.

“Shipping and trucking modes were more active, as we expected, with acquisitions driven by overcapacity, high fragmentation, and attendant poor financial performance,” said the study, authored by Jonathan Kletzel, the company’s U.S. transportation and logistics leader, and Julian Smith, global transportation and logistics leader.

It noted several recent trucking acquisitions have helped companies expand into specialized freight, which can increase overall margins, while they identified additional trends that are expected to affect the values and locations of deals in the transportation and logistics sector, including:

  • While strategic investment has been weak this year compared with longer-term totals, the level of financial investment has been more robust. Debt financing is being used more frequently because of interest from these acquirers. Financial investors also tend to focus on shipping and trucking.
  • Also, deal multiples are reaching record highs, continuing a trend in effect since the global recession. The general increase in equity market valuations has contributed to higher deal valuations, but infrastructure deals, which tend to carry above a average multiples, remain popular. Two of the three mega deals announced this quarter were infrastructure related.
  • Acquirers remain focused on local-market deals, as 2014 is on pace to be one of the decade’s weakest years for cross-border activity. Emerging market acquirers in particular are consolidating their local markets. These acquirers are driven by the relative fragmentation and, in some cases, higher return possibilities within these nations.

“These mergers and acquisitions trends suggest that the overall sector is taking steps to improve performance through consolidation within underperforming modes and in emerging markets,” the study said. “Acquirers remain somewhat risk averse, as indicated by the overall pace of deals and the general local-market focus.”

The authors pointed out there is, however, a healthy appetite for a more narrow set of targets, as indicated by the historic valuations.

“Looking forward, we expect shipping, trucking, and infrastructure deals to lead the mergers and acquisitions market,” the study said. “