Hapag-Lloyd Agrees to Buy UASC as Container Carriers Consolidate

  • German company’s stock jumps the most in two months on accord
  • UASC shareholders to meet Wednesday to approve transaction

Hapag-Lloyd AG approved a plan to acquire all shares of United Arab Shipping Co., paving the way for the second merger in two years to bolster the position of Germany’s biggest container-shipping line in an industry plagued by excess capacity.

The main investors of both companies still need to agree to commitments in a business-combination agreement to proceed with the deal, the Hamburg-based carrier said Tuesday in a statement, without specifying a transaction value or other terms. UASC’s shareholders are scheduled to meet Wednesday in Dubai to clear the deal, the German company said. Hapag-Lloyd shares surged the most in two months.

Shipping lines worldwide have been plagued by depressed freight rates as trade slowed following the global recession of 2008, and as larger vessels ordered before the crisis enter companies’ fleets. That’s prompted deals ranging from route-sharing to full-fledged takeovers as container shippers struggle to survive.

Hapag-Lloyd, which counts German billionaire Klaus-Michael Kuehne as one of its biggest owners, bought the container business of Chilean rival Cia. Sud Americana de Vapores SA in 2014. The UASC deal would boost Hapag-Lloyd’s global industry ranking by capacity to fifth-largest from sixth.

Following the UASC takeover, Hapag-Lloyd will account for 72 percent of the combined entity’s value and the Dubai-based shipper for the remaining 28 percent, the German company said in April. A Hapag-Lloyd spokesman declined on Tuesday to give an update on the shareholder structure.

UASC is owned by several sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East, including majority shareholder Qatar Investment Authority, which holds 51 percent of the company. Smaller investors include Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund with 36 percent. The company is run by Danish managers. It has 200 million shares issued in Egypt, with 97.7 million trading in Cairo, for a market capitalization of 144 million Egyptian pounds ($16.3 million).

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