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CMA CGM tipped to take over OOCL

France’s CMA CGM, fresh from gobbling up Neptune Orient Lines (NOL), is being widely tipped to be the suitor to take over Hong Kong’s Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), the world’s eighth largest liner. Drewry has become the latest consultant to tip the French line to buy OOCL in the latest wave of consolidation. The share price of OOIL, the parent of OOCL, has shot up more than 20% since the start of the year on speculation that it will be bought. With just 575,000 slots to its name, OOCL is perceived to be too small as a global liner amidst the huge mergers shaping the sector at the moment.

Drewry said CMA CGM was the clear favourite to buy OOCL, noting the Marseille line could select any one of the three options including merger, reverse merger or outright purchase of OOIL, but the most likely outcome in its view is a merger, with OOIL shareholders to be given shares in the new combined entity. A number of other sources have also told Splash CMA CGM is in pole to take on the Hong Kong line.

However, when contacted by Splash today an official spokesperson for CMA CGM denied the line was in the market for the Hong Kong company.

“OOIL’s acquisition could also provide CMA CGM with a listing on the Hong Kong bourse and fulfill its long standing ambition to be a listed company,” Drewry said in a note today.

Providing some background, Drewry noted: “Before NOL was bought over by CMA CGM, most analysts and investors have for years maintained the view that OOIL and NOL are best suited for a merger in the industry given their similar size, international work cultures and significant synergies.”

Concluding, Drewry suggested: “With CMA CGM having digested the NOL integration fairly well, OOIL is a very attractive proposition for the company on several counts. CMA CGM-OOIL combine would be easier to integrate in our view after the NOL acquisition. The OOIL acquisition could also complement the other businesses as not only does it add further exposure to the long-haul trades but will boost CMA CGM’s market share in intra-Asia trade to effectively compete with Maersk Line’s MCC transport.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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