DHL to parcel-up online operations for market

DHL, the express parcel delivery group, is planning to take advantage of the dizzy valuations attached to internet businesses by separately floating off its online operations.

The company operates 70 separate websites worldwide, created to promote online booking and parcel tracking. It is understood that senior executives at DHL want to list some of these facilities separately when the company floats - expected in 2001 - to boost the value of the business.

It could lead to listings in London's TechMARK and on America's Nasdaq.

The company is remaining tight-lipped about the value of the business. However, analysts believe that because over 40 per cent of DHL's shipment applications are processed on the internet, and 90 per cent of parcel tracking is done on the net, then DHL could be worth over £1.5bn.

Martin Carfrae, DHL's e-commerce development manager, said: "We are reviewing all our online ventures with a view to potentially spinning them off separately. They clearly add value to the organisation so we are trying to build as many internet entities as possible."

Red Planet, DHL's UK site, is a prime candidate for being listed separately. Created three years ago by e-consultant The Hub, the site generates 110,000 visits a month.

Mr Carfrae said the number of customers had doubled over the last year, and DHL was working on adding further interactive services.

He claimed the internet was a benefit to both DHL and customers: "It reduces the number of people we have to employ in our call centres. And the people who are in the centres are dealing with the really important queries.

"For our customers, it means that they can dispatch a courier within sixty seconds of using the internet and track the progress of their parcel whenever they like."

DHL's decision to float was triggered by the sale of a 20 per cent stake in the business by Japanese Airlines to two investment trusts last December for £200m.

While DHL is expected to issue new shares in the company, the bulk of the public offering will be the former Japanese Airlines' stake.

DHL's other majority shareholders are Deutsche Post and Lufthansa Cargo.

The company, founded in 1969, is divided into two divisions: DHL Airways for the US and DHL International for the rest of the world. It operates in 227 countries, employs 63,000 and has a fleet of 200 aircraft.

It has earmarked Europe for future growth and has already raised around £600m for expansion, which will be partly invested in developing its air fleet. This will see the replacement of some if its Boeing 707 jets with Boeing 757s bought from British Airways. It also plans to use its proposed listing to access more public capital for expansion.

The push could also see it overhauling the legal structure of its European operation. DHL is registered in Bermuda, but observers expect its Brussels office to become its official European base.

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