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6. XPO Logistics

The transportation services company cites M&A as the main generator of $900M in revenue across 89 locations

When Bradley Jacobs (pictured) took control of Express-1 Expedited Solutions Inc. in September 2011 and turned it into XPO Logistics Inc. (NYSE:XPO), the company's modest annual revenue hovered at $175 million with just four locations.

Today, the transportation services company and third-party logistics provider generates $900 million across 89 locations. Jacobs credits much of the growth to M&A.

"The company has expanded quite a bit," Jacobs says, citing the seven acquisitions the company has made since it was rebranded XPO. Four of the deals were announced in 2013.

Buchanan, Mich.-based XPO purchased Interide Logistics LLC in May for $4 million, 3PD Inc. in August for $365 million, Covered Logistics & Transportation in February for $12 million, and East Coast Air Charter Inc., also in February, for $9.25 million.

In 2012, XPO picked up Turbo Logistics Inc. for $50 million, not long after it scooped up Toronto-based Kelron Logisitcs Inc. for $8 million and Columbia, S.C.-based Continental Freight Services Inc. for $3.4 million.

Each deal was financed with cash or mostly cash, Jacobs notes. So far, each transaction has contributed to XPO's garnering relationships with more than 22,000 freight carriers that provide some half a million trucks across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. 3PD, for example, positions XPO as a full supply-chain provider and allows the company to bring heavy appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines, directly to homes.

Competition in the logistics space is fierce, as the industry consolidates. During auctions, XPO has placed bids against J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. (Nasdaq: JBHT), Platinum Equity-backed MXD Group. and Ceva Investments Ltd., which is owned by Apollo Global Management LLC (NYSE: APO).

In addition to doing deals, XPO has opened up 18 new licensed brokers that provide trucking services to retailers that are outsourcing delivery services amid the rise in online purchasing.

"From our point of view, bigger is better, because it leads to huge economies of scale," Jacobs says. "Consolidation is taking place among larger providers who can invest in technology, training and recruiting, and have larger networks of carriers."