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MSC’s merger with major ports in Germany?

According to foreign media reports, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is currently preparing to re-engage in discussions regarding the merger of major ports in Germany. MSC plans to revive the previous failed merger plan, which involved merging the major ports of Hamburg, Wilhelmshaven, and Bremerhaven. The previous merger negotiations two years ago had collapsed, but with MSC’s completion of the acquisition of a minority stake in Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA), they are now open to the idea of port consolidation.

Nils Kahn, the head of MSC’s German operations, emphasized in a media interview that it is not currently the right time to engage in debates about the merger of major German ports, as the completion of MSC’s acquisition of a minority stake in HHLA is still pending. However, once the acquisition is completed, MSC will be open to port consolidation.

It is understood that the last discussion about the merger of the three major ports, Hamburg, Wilhelmshaven, and Bremerhaven, took place two years ago, with intensive negotiations among the parties involved. However, the negotiations were unsuccessful. In addition to the ports, container shipping company Hapag-Lloyd and the Eurokai family were also involved in the merger talks.

Previously, under the supervision of Hapag-Lloyd, the Hamburg City Council had sold nearly half of HHLA’s shares to MSC, which had caused dissatisfaction from Klaus Michael Kuehne, a major shareholder and the 86-year-old owner of Hapag-Lloyd. He had expressed interest in acquiring HHLA through his holding company or in collaboration with Hapag-Lloyd.

However, Rolf Habben Jansen, the CEO of Hapag-Lloyd, recently stated in an interview with German media that Hapag-Lloyd will not participate in the acquisition of HHLA and expects the next three years to be a challenge for the global container shipping market. He said, “Container shipping has always been a cyclical industry, but I don’t think it will be as bad as it was in 2008 and 2009.”