Multi-million-pound investment sees Edinburgh's Menzies Aviation push into Chinese cargo market

Edinburgh-headquartered aviation services group John Menzies has pushed into the vast Chinese cargo market following a multi-million-pound investment.

The group, which already operates at 200 airports in 35 countries, has agreed a £3.4 million investment to acquire a minority equity stake, by way of a joint venture, in Guangzhou JFreight Aviation Logistics Supply Chain (JFreight).

The joint venture will see the Scots group manage and operate a new cargo terminal at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport – one of the world’s busiest airports – on behalf of the shareholders of JFreight.

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Menzies said the investment created a “strong platform” for the business in an “attractive growth market”.

Scottish-headquartered aviation services business Menzies operates at 200 airports in 35 countries.
Scottish-headquartered aviation services business Menzies operates at 200 airports in 35 countries.

JFreight is experienced in artificial intelligence and robotics and has used its technical skills to create a “smart terminal” with an electronic interaction point with Chinese customs. The terminal has the capacity to handle 120,000 tonnes of cargo annually.

It is likely that Menzies’ initial focus will be on the handling of product related to the fast growing Chinese e-commerce market with the potential to expand into more general air cargo handling for airlines.

Philipp Joeinig, chairman and chief executive of Menzies, said: “We are very pleased to have found a great partner in JFreight and I look forward to developing our relationship with them as we move forward.

“This investment demonstrates our commitment to delivering on our strategy and I am very excited about the opportunity it brings.”

Zheng Xi Ming, chairman of JFreight, added: “I am very pleased to welcome Menzies Aviation with their established expertise in cargo handling and the wider aviation services market into our venture in Guangzhou. I very much look forward to working closely together and delivering successful operations.”

In April, Menzies Aviation hailed a five-year contract at a major US airport as “one of the most significant wins” in the history of its cargo business.

The group said that following a competitive process, Avianca had selected the firm as its cargo handling partner of choice at Miami International Airport (MIA).

The Florida airport is a key cargo gateway for the airline and the top-ranking US domestic airport for international freight.

The contract continues a period of significant growth for the Scottish group’s cargo operations, with major wins across Oceania, Europe and the US in recent months and an expansion in its global cargo network from 36 to 42 airports.

Menzies recently set a goal of making 100 per cent of its operations carbon neutral by the company’s 200-year anniversary in 2033.

The firm – one of Scotland’s oldest – said it believed it was the first aviation services provider to make this “ground-breaking” commitment to carbon neutrality.

To achieve its green targets, the group will focus on investing in electric ground support equipment, reducing emissions through identifying operational efficiencies and balancing remaining emissions with carbon offsetting initiatives.

John Menzies started out in 1833 when its eponymous founder opened a bookshop at 61 Princes Street, Edinburgh which was to become the only wholesale bookseller north of the Border. The newspaper and magazine distribution business was spun out in 2018, creating Menzies Distribution, and leaving the rest of the firm to focus on providing aviation services.

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