UASC Said to Eye Chemical Tanker Unit Sale as Part of Hapag Deal

  • Company is seeking more than $600 million for UACC business
  • Shipping company said to work with Bank of America on sale

United Arab Shipping Co. is weighing a sale of its tanker business for oil and petrochemicals that could fetch more than $600 million as part of its plans to merge with German container shipping line Hapag-Lloyd AG, people familiar with the matter said.

The Dubai-based shipping company is working with Bank of America Corp. to find buyers for its holding in United Arab Chemical Carriers Ltd., or UACC, the people said, asking not to be named because the deliberations are private. The company held 95 percent of UACC according to the chemical shipping firm’s 2012 financial report, the most recent one available on the company’s website. No final decisions about the sale have been made, the people said.

Hapag-Lloyd’s supervisory board and UASC shareholders approved a plan last month to acquire all the shares of UASC. The Hamburg-based company, Germany’s biggest container-shipping line, has said that it’s interested in UASC’s container-shipping activities, making a sale of the other, chemical-tanker business the next logical step in the takeover. UASC may also consider a sale of its air cargo business as part of the Hapag-Lloyd deal, the people said.

UACC, founded in 2007, is a mid-sized operator with a fleet of two dozen tankers. While container and bulk carrier markets have been plagued by oversupply and depressed freight rates in recent years, the tanker market has performed better as vessels are used to store cheap oil.

Representatives from Hapag-Lloyd and Bank of America declined to comment. A spokesman for UASC didn’t immediately return a call and e-mail seeking comment.

Combined, Hapag-Lloyd and UASC would rank fifth in an industry dominated by Danish shipping giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S. The deal would also give Hapag-Lloyd immediate access to some of the largest container ships available. UASC operates six vessels with a capacity of 18,800 standard 20-foot containers, a size the German carrier lacks.

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