‘Hapag-Lloyd would rather take over CMA CGM than vice versa’: Klaus-Michael Kühne

CMA CGM has made overtures to German rival Hapag-Lloyd, but the merger talk was flatly rejected. In comments reported by Alphaliner from an intriguing annual general meeting in Hamburg yesterday, key Hapag-Lloyd shareholder Klaus-Michael Kühne, said: “Hapag-Lloyd would rather take over CMA CGM than vice versa.”

Officials at Hapag-Lloyd yesterday denied a Reuters report claiming the French liner had held discussions with its Hamburg counterpart over an all share, no-cash merger. A spokesperson for Hapag-Lloyd told Splash: ““There is no substance in the rumours.”

However, in an interview with German broadcaster NDR, Kühne, 81, revealed: “I am not worried. They (CMA CGM) approached me and made several attempts to negotiate, but we found that the proposal made no sense. We do not want it.” Kühne, a Hamburg native and logistics titan, has a 25% stake in Hapag-Lloyd.

Alphaliner data shows that the merged pairing would create the world’s largest containerline with 4.24m slots.

Also speaking at Hapag-Lloyd’s AGM, CEO Rolf Habben Jansen said the company was seeking ways to cut costs as rising bunker bills and diminished freight rates have hit the liner’s bottom line hard this year.

“Major cost positions have risen more than initially expected and are pressuring operating margins,” Habben Jansen said.

“We are responding short-term to this development through forceful cost management and will keep Hapag-Lloyd competitive this way,” he added.

Habben Jansen was also questioned on the CMA CGM speculation, which he quickly dismissed, saying: “Of course, there are no conversations between Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM.”

Habben Jansen said he doubted there would be any major liner mergers this year, further consolidation likely coming from among the niche containerlines. He also predicted that the appetite to order the largest boxships – above 20,000 teu in capacity – would wane in the coming years.

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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