Unidentified industry sources have suggested that French railway SNCF scuppered a US$500 deal this summer for its road transport, logistics and forwarding subsidiary, Geodis, to acquire US freight forwarder Phoenix International.

Yesterday, Lloyd’s Loading List.com reported that Phoenix was to be acquired by US-based CH Robinson Worldwide, one of the world’s largest third-party logistics companies.

Chicago-based and founded in 1979, Phoenix describes itself as "the largest privately owned, full-service international freight forwarder, NVOCC, and customs broker headquartered in North America."

Contacted by Lloyd’s Loading List.com, SNCF Geodis declined to comment on a report which appeared in French business newspaper Les Echos, quoting unidentified sources at both the company and SNCF.

The report said that despite the US being a major gap in Geodis’s global network and Phoenix viewed as the solution by Geodis chief Pierre Blayau, SNCF refused to bankroll its acquisition and had called on the company to concentrate its efforts on improving the performance of its logistics activities in France.

Evidence of the group’s ambitions to grow in the US, came on the announcement of the acquisition of US-based One Source Logistics by freight forwarding unit Geodis Wilson in June 2011.

“Our aim is to, at least, double our freight forwarding business in the US within the coming 5 years, based on external and organic growth," Geodis CEO Jean-Louis Demeulenaere said at the time.

Freight forwarding and logistics currently account for 50% of Geodis’s global turnover which, in the first half of 2012, totalled just over €3.5 billion, an increase of 1.1% on the same period in 2011 but down 1.5% at constant exchange rates.

Despite poor market conditions, half-year operating profit was up 5.9% at €14.3 million despite poor market conditions largely as result of the "strong momentum" in Geodis’s activities in Eastern Europe and Asia.

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