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Maersk Gains as DFDS Deal Sparks Sales Bets: Copenhagen Mover

A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S rose to its highest in more than two weeks in Copenhagen after the sale of a stake in a ferry operator fueled speculation that Denmark’s biggest company will generate cash through further divestments.

Maersk added as much as 1.7 percent to 50,300 kroner the highest since Aug. 19. The stock gained 1.6 percent to 50,250 kroner at 1:04 p.m. local time, with trading volume at 91 percent of the three-month daily average. The advance made the share today’s second-biggest winner in the Nasdaq OMX Copenhagen 20 index.

Maersk today said it’s selling its 31.3 percent stake in DFDS A/S, with the divestment valued at 1.73 billion kroner ($305 million), based on yesterday’s closing price. Since Chief Executive Officer Nils Smedegaard Andersen took over in 2007, Maersk has been disposing of units to focus on its main business areas: container shipping, oil exploration, drilling and ports. The Copenhagen-based company has more than 1,000 subsidiaries.

“The DFDS sale underlines that Maersk is dedicated to its focus on its core units and is a signal of more divestments to come,” Jacob Pedersen, an analyst with Sydbank A/S, said by phone. “It’s positive for Maersk’s share price if the company becomes as focused as possible and sells as many of its small non-core bits and pieces as possible.”

Maersk’s divestments under Andersen include a liquefied natural gas vessel operator, an unprofitable ship-yard and Netto supermarkets in the U.K. Maersk may make car-carrier Hoegh Autoliners one of its next divestments, said Pedersen, who’s based in the Danish city of Aabenraa.

Maersk’s stake in Danske Bank A/S, Denmark’s biggest lender, and its holding in Dansk Supermarked, the country’s second-biggest retailer, are also “long-term” divestment assets, according to Pedersen.

“In an 8-to-10-year time frame, I would be extremely surprised if Maersk still owns these two units,” he said. “But if a bidder shows up with the right price, Maersk could sell sooner.”

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