Cargo company acquisition could signal more freight growth in Florence

FLORENCE, Ky. – A New York air cargo company has agreed to acquire Florence-based Southern Air Holdings Inc. for roughly $110 million, a deal that should signal more growth in terms of freight at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, one of the world’s largest air cargo operators, announced the deal earlier this week. It's expected to close in the next few months, pending regulatory approval. Southern Air will continue to operate from its Turfway Ridge Office Park location in Florence, officials said. The cargo airline relocated to Northern Kentucky in 2013 to be closer to global giant DHL, Southern Air’s primary customer.

Calls to Atlas and Southern Air went unreturned, but CVG chief executive officer Candace McGraw said she was told the deal is good news for the airport, which is coming off its best year in terms of cargo tonnage. William J. Flynn, president and CEO of Atlas Air Worldwide, said in a statement that, “The result will be a more diversified and profitable company."

"(Southern Air) grew with the notion that they would make it healthy and sell it off, which they have done," McGraw said. "It should all be very good for CVG. Atlas has indicted that they intend to grow their presence here."

Southern Air, once headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy prior to its move to the Greater Cincinnati area. The company provides long-term aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance cargo services, and recently signed a new, 10-year contract extension with DHL. Southern currently operates five Boeing 777-200Fs and five 737-400Fs under agreements with DHL. The addition of those aircraft, specifically, Flynn said, will enhance Atlas Air’s position in the market; the Boeing 777, for example, is considered the most technologically advanced, fuel efficient, wide-bodied freighter in the world.

Southern Air currently employs approximately 400 in Kentucky and at its other global locations.

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