China’s leading logistics integrator giant SF Express is now emerging as a global force that is reshaping the balance of power in the rapidly evolving logistics sector. Established in Guangdong in 1993, since its establishment, SF has created a diversified express service business unit organization and service networks throughout China and now through the world. The company represents the first private express logistics firm with an operating airline subsidiary in Mainland China. SF Airlines has a fleet of total 55 owned cargo aircraft. SF E-Parcel connects over 225 countries and regions and express delivery support in 62 countries.

Several key elements of the Company’s dramatic growth include:

  • It is Developing Its Own Purpose-Built Cargo Airport – SF Airlines and the Hubei provincial government in Central China signed a cooperation agreement that will advance the “Hubei International Logistics Key Hub Project.” This greenfield development strategy is considered by many China’s version of a purpose-built Memphis, a reference to the main FedEx hub in the United States. The Hubei government pledged support of the project in ill jointly planning, constructing and operating the Ezhou Airport. Some in China are referring to the project as the first express-focused “professional cargo airport” in Asia.
  • DHL Partnership – A domestic supply chain partnership with DHL complements the company’s intention to become a major player in contract logistics through investments in overseas warehousing facilities. A fundamental business proposition to-date has been to support Chinese companies in their mission to expand their global footprints. Noting the differences between a China-focused approach and a multinational approach to handling logistics, Gong Shunsong, Vice President SF’s International Business Unit, said “The end goal for overseas warehouses is to assist with overseas localization efforts and local marketing, operations, customer service, after-sales, etc. In the future, overseas warehouses will evolve from the traditional warehouse model into a multi-functional, personalized overseas operations center that acts a key partner in helping cross-border e-commerce companies acclimate to overseas markets.”
  • Expanded Service to Europe – Beyond their partnership with UPS that was announced about a year ago, the company recently announced the launch of multiple new intercontinental scheduled flight operations to Europe. The newly launched Wuxi-Chongqing-Frankfurt Hahn-Wuxi three weekly schedule flights consolidates the company’s goal to expand its international freight coverage to Europe. These new operations are an extended air services operating by SF Airlines Boeing 747-400ERF cargo plane with maximum capacity 120-ton, which serves 3 airports in China and Germany. SF Express is currently carrying outbound cargo for electronic products from China with last-mile delivery throughout mainland Europe. The China inbound expansion will focus on general freight for automotive, spare parts, heavy machinery, chemicals, and electronic products.
  • Further Expansion in Asia – In the first 10 months of 2019, SF Airlines opened eight new intra-Asia destinations as well, including Chengdu-Inchon, Zhengzhou-Kuala Lumpur, Nanning-Ho Chi Minh and Shenzhen–Delhi routes. With this network, SF Express has significantly expanded its coverage of Southeast Asia, Central Asia and European countries.
  • Further Growth into India and the US – SF Express has continued operations from Shenzhen to Chennai and Hangzhou to New York, maintaining a 3-per-week schedule, guaranteeing fast and secured international services. The Company’s target customers include seafood, fruits, clothes, heavy machinery and dangerous goods.

GLDPartners recognizes that SF Express’ growth is an example of the quickly evolving Asian air cargo market. We’re watching the redefinition of the integrator/express cargo market – alongside the extraordinary growth from the ECommerce sector. The Asian air cargo logistics market is now undergoing a once in a generation transformation, driven by a combination of factors but principally by the maturation of the Asian logistics sector and the advent of ECommerce as a central factor. This combination of factors, along with some very significant changes to the network structure for some key supply chain verticals is creating new opportunity for some airports that had previously not experienced high growth. We see that a new structure for air cargo concentrations will emerge; with large load center hubs, and secondary hub and feeder hub status for some regional airports. We’ll be writing more about the development of these emerging secondary and feeder hubs in the coming months, alongside what we see as investment capture-opportunity for specific supply chain vertical investment in airport hinterlands or investment districts.


Global Logistics Development Partners | GLDPartners is an international investment and advisory firm that specializes in revenue and infrastructure development projects at and around high-opportunity airports, seaports and strategic trade and logistics hubs. Additionally, has two other business divisions: 1) we support global manufacturers and distribution operations with network design strategy and facility location analytics, and 2) GLDPartners Mobility Solutions works in the automotive and transportation technology area, focusing on testing and development hubs, public policy, new market entry strategies, infrastructure planning and economic development. GLDPartners’ clients and market perspective is global and the firm is headquartered in the US in Scottsdale, Arizona, with offices in New York, Washington DC and in the UK.


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