Disruptive technology as a driver of M&A in the transport sector – key trends

Publication January 2019

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New technologies such as blockchain, cryptocurrencies and AI are already triggering major disruption in the transport sector, with traditional market participants forming joint ventures and collaborating with a wide variety of parties in order to drive greater efficiency in how they do business.

  • Blockchain technology is having a significant impact on passenger transport. The market has already seen the first airline loyalty programme based on blockchain technology launched by Singapore Airlines, KPMG and Microsoft, and can expect to see further partnerships formed.
  • Using blockchain for ticketing would reduce costs by streamlining the process and removing third parties. Rail tickets can already be bought with cryptocurrency in a number of jurisdictions, and Russian Railways is reported to be planning to implement ticket sales in cryptocurrency.
  • While AI technology is already well advanced for aircraft and trains, consumer confidence is a critical factor in the uptake of fully AI-enabled transport. Further testing is required, particularly for cars, trucks and ships.
  • Given current safety concerns, the shipping industry is most likely to benefit from the development of AI-enabled end-to-end logistics chains, encompassing intelligent ports and driverless trucks. The market is likely to see M&A activity as major players seek to acquire entire logistics chains in order to have greater control over the movement of their goods.
  • Liability will be an important consideration for parties looking at M&A activity in order to manufacture fully AI-enabled transport, given the absence of regulation and case law to determine where liability sits in the supply chain.
  • Disruptive technology will bring new players into the transport sector, a number of whom will look at exit strategies as new technologies become part of the fabric of the industry.

Case study

The London, Hong Kong, Moscow, Dubai and Shanghai offices of Norton Rose Fulbright advised Zurich on its acquisition of Bright Box, a connected car and telematics business. Bright Box was founded in 2012, is headquartered in Hong Kong, has operations in Europe and conducts business globally. It provides telematics solutions that link drivers to their vehicles and the vehicles to networks of car dealers and original equipment manufacturers.

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