J.B. Hunt buying part of BNSF unit

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE.The J.B. Hunt headquarters building stands Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Lowell.

J.B. Hunt Transport Inc., a subsidiary of Lowell-based transportation company J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., is buying the brokerage operations of BNSF Logistics, the companies said Thursday.

BNSF Logistics provides full truckload, flatbed, temp-controlled, drayage, expedited and less-than-truckload services to a variety of customers, according to a release. BNSF Logistics's warehouse, retail specialty, heavy-haul and project services, are not part of the deal.

The purchase is through J.B. Hunt's subsidiary J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. BNSF Logistics is an affiliate of BNSF Railway Company Inc.

The terms of the deal were not released. J.B. Hunt will use cash to pay for the deal, which is expected to close by the end of the year.

"As we continue to work with BNSF Railway to develop solutions that drive value for customers, we recognized a unique opportunity to combine the companies' efforts to serve the transportation market with 3PL services and leverage the investments J.B. Hunt has made in our technology platform, J.B. Hunt 360°," John Roberts, chief executive officer of J.B. Hunt, said in a statement.

"This acquisition is another step forward in our mission to create the most efficient transportation network in North America."

In April, during J.B. Hunt's annual meeting, Roberts said the company was well positioned for strategic growth and expansion. The company's profits have slumped in recent quarters as its executives noted the country is in the midst of a freight recession.

When the deal closes BNSF Logistics' brokerage operations will become part of J.B. Hunt's Integrated Capacity Solutions for segment reporting purposes. The two companies will begin a long-term service agreement where J.B. Hunt will continue to provide certain services to BNSF Railway, when the deal is complete.

"This agreement with J.B. Hunt reflects our companies' shared commitment to provide industry-leading intermodal service to our customers," Katie Farmer, president and CEO of BNSF Railway said in a statement. "This continues more than 30 years of partnership between BNSF and J.B. Hunt and builds on our announcement to further integrate our joint services."

Shares of J.B. Hunt closed at $190.68, up $1.33 or less than 1% in trading Thursday on the Nasdaq. Shares have traded as low as $156.28 and as high as $209.21 over the past year. BNSF Railway is privately held.