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Hapag-Lloyd set for growth after ownership change

22/08/2012

Hapag-Lloyd, the world's No 5 container shipping company, has a good chance of increasing its market share now that a change in ownership has returned its focus to longer-term strategic planning, one of its main shareholders said.

"The new chairman, (Juergen) Weber, has started to address strategic issues more, which was not the case with TUI," said entrepreneur Klaus-Michael Kuehne, referring to the tour operator which formerly had sole ownership of Hapag-Lloyd.

"TUI was just interested in getting out of Hapag-Lloyd and keeping it more or less above water in the meantime," Kuehne, who is also majority owner of Swiss logistics group Kuehne & Nagel, told Reuters.

Earlier this year Kuehne and the city of Hamburg became Hapag-LLoyd's two biggest shareholders, buying stakes from tour operator TUI, which had been looking to unload all or part of its holding for some time.

The city of Hamburg holds close to 37 percent of Hapag-Lloyd, Kuehne owns just over 28 percent and TUI still has about 22 percent.

Kuehne said the owners aimed to position Hapag-Lloyd as a top container shipping line, with mergers and alliances being possible options for growth.

He recently said Hamburg Sued would be an ideal merger partner to vault Hapag-Lloyd into a top industry position, from which point it could compete with Denmark's Maersk and Switzerland's MSC.

He declined to say with which other companies Hapag-Lloyd has been in touch, but said no deal was imminent.

Now Hapag-Lloyd has a different ownership, "that makes it possible to become more serious about such considerations," Kuehne said.

Kuehne also reiterated that a pickup in freight rates and a recovery of capital markets would make it more likely for Hapag-Lloyd to consider launching an initial public offering (IPO) in 2013.

"That depends on the stock market climate and on how well Hapag-Lloyd makes it through the coming quarters," he said, adding he aimed to retain a blocking minority stake in the company even after any IPO.

Hapag-Lloyd posted a second-quarter loss of US$9.2 million but said it planned to raise prices further in the second half of the year to offset soaring fuel costs.

The company said earlier this year it would need two good quarters under its belt before testing the market for an IPO.

(Cargonews Asia)