Exclusive – WISSKIRCHEN acquires Hahn Cargo Services

Service agent WISSKIRCHEN Management and Consulting GmbH has taken over ground handler Hahn Cargo Services GmbH for an undisclosed amount. The deal was inked last Wednesday and entered into force on Friday (01MAR24). The recent decline of freight volumes at Frankfurt Hahn Airport did not deter WISSKIRCHEN owner Oliver Hellwig from investing. He is convinced of an imminent turnaround.

Silkway West Airlines is one of Wisskirchen’s key customers at Hahn Airport – photos: courtesy WISSKIRCHEN Management and Consulting GmbH

Oliver Hellwig is back in business again. After selling the exclusive Cargo-Handling-Business at Cologne (Cologne Bonn Cargo Center) to DNATA in mid-2022 he has struck a deal again, as he himself says. “We have acquired ground handler Hahn Cargo Services GmbH,” the entrepreneur told CargoForwarder Global exclusively. “I decided to approach you and no other publication because you report very credibly and profoundly,” he explained.

The centerpiece of the deal is the 7,000 m2 freight terminal, with an adjacent located roofed space of 5,000 m2. Around 30,000 tons were handled there in 2023, but the hall offers capacity for the throughput of 100,000 tons per year, Mr. Hellwig states. WISSKIRCHEN’s first new customer at Hahn is Air Arabia and some other carriers will follow in the next weeks, he indicates. For the time being he has leased the facility for a period of 25 years but has signed two other contracts with the option to buy the Cargo-Terminal (building 870) and additional undeveloped land of 21,163 square meters for a second warehouse.

When asked, market observers speak of a very courageous step. After all, Hahn Airport, located 114 km southwest of big Rhine-Main Airport, has seen many investors burning their money. Several insolvencies are proof of this.

Since APR23, Hahn has been owned by Triwo AG, a real estate developer based in the vicinity, who bought the airport out of insolvency. With the change of ownership, freight traffic was supposed to be picking up again leading to higher cargo throughput. However, the hoped-for turnaround has yet to materialize.

Against this backdrop, the question arises as to why a cargo veteran like Oliver Hellwig (OH), decided to purchase a ground handling agent based at Hahn, a financially and operationally troubled airport. Here are his arguments:

Oliver Hellwig is back on the cargo stage again, following a pause of nearly two years.

OH: Because according to my information freight throughput at Hahn will turn into a new upswing soon. 

CFG: What is your assumption based on?

OH: Unlike its big neighbors Frankfurt or Düsseldorf, for example, the airport has a 24/7/365 operating permit, a rare privilege in the German airport landscape. This enables round-the-clock flights which makes Hahn extremely interesting for cargo airlines, whether scheduled or charter. In addition, the new owner Triwo AG, including its management is extremely professional. Last but not least, most local residents are in favor of the airport and not against it. After all, Hahn is an extremely important employer in the region.

CFG: The 24/7 operating permit is nothing new. However, despite this attractive fact, air freight throughput declined in recent times. For instance, Azeri carrier Silkway West Airlines transferred most of its cargo flights from Hahn to Liège.

OH: This they did because the German regulator has limited the number of weekly flights to five. After the pandemic, Silkway had to considerably reduce again their freighter frequencies to Hahn Airport. However, we are confident that the flight operations to Hahn can be developed again by Silkway in the near future since the market served by those flights is the German market and forcing the carrier to feed this freight via neighboring countries is certainly not in the interest of the German economy.

CFG: Did you get this Silkway information from ASG, the previous owner of Hahn Cargo Services? After all, they are headquartered in Baku as is the cargo airline.

OH: My information channels I don’t disclose. What we will work hard on is ending cargo tourism to the Benelux countries. Their airports, from Amsterdam in the northwest to Paris Charles de Gaulle in France, live mainly from air freight produced by the German industry and trucked across the borders to those airports. This causes jams on roads and high greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, Hahn is located much closer to the German industrial centers, enabling sustainable supply chains. In addition, there is the European discussion about slot reductions in Amsterdam. Some of the cargo airlines operating there will have to redirect their European traffic.

CFG: Why do you think Hahn would be a smart option?

Since the lifting of the covid travel restrictions, passenger markets are booming beyond pre-covid levels and market trends indicate this will continue. Most major airports have shifted their focus to the passenger market considering the potential of non-aviation revenues and the freighter traffic is likely to face increasing restrictions at those airports. As a consequence, the availability of airports focused on air freight operations is becoming crucial to guarantee schedule flexibility, efficient ground services demanded by the freight markets, supply chains and the e-commerce business.

CFG: Final question: How much did you pay for Hahn Cargo Services GmbH?

OH: The amount was within reasonable limits. Hope for your understanding but financial details remain under wraps. But we will have to invest about one million euros to upgrade the actual setup.

Hellwig went on to say that Hahn is not the only airport Wisskirchen has on its radar. His company is in talks with Liège Airport to become active there as well. “Warsaw in Poland would be another option we are closely looking at,” the manager indicates.

MUC seeks buyer or partner for ground handler Cargogate
On another note, CargoForwarder Global has learned that Munich Airport is looking for an investor for its ground handling agent Cargogate. In JAN2, a tender was launched for the sale of shares in Cargogate Munich Airport GmbH to a strategic partner, confirmed MUC speaker Florian Steuer to CargoForwarder Global. “The aim is to gain a strong partner who will provide further opportunities for the location and the [airport] company,” he states.

A final decision on the scope of the shares has not yet been made; rather, this will happen within this year, he confirms.

In 2023, at Munich Airport 280,000 tons were processed, with Cargogate handling a significant share of the volumes.

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