Klaus-Michael Kühne ‘not comfortable’ with Hapag-Lloyd’s stellar earnings

Klaus-Michael Kühne, the octogenarian joint top shareholder in Hapag-Lloyd, has said he feels uncomfortable with the stellar profits Germany’s top containerline is making.

In a wide-ranging interview carried by the Frankfurter Allgemeine yesterday, Kühne discussed his stakes in Lufthansa, the future of logistics giant Kuehne & Nagel, the war in Ukraine as well as heaping plenty of criticism on the federal government in Berlin.

Asked how he felt about the record profits Hapag-Lloyd was recording, the German tycoon, who lives in Switzerland, said he was “not comfortable” with the figures, which have seen the carrier vie this year with Volkswagen as Germany’s most profitable company, nailing a return on sales of 52% in the first half of the year with a projected full year profit likely to come in at EUR18bn ($17.9bn).

“These are excesses that cannot be understood at all,” Kühne said, adding: “Customers will pay almost any price to get their goods transported and maintain their supply chains. But that won’t go on for much longer.”

Kühne is predicting the situation should start to normalise inthe fourth quarter. He is Hapag-Lloyd’s joint top shareholder with CSAV, both holding 30% stakes in the Hamburg line.

Quizzed about Hapag-Lloyd’s tax situation, increasingly a hot topic with liners earning sums that make tech giants look poor, Kühne said Berlin’s hands were tied.

“The tonnage tax is unique. But it follows EU law, so the German state can’t do anything about it,” Kühne said.

Hapag-Lloyd will pay EUR20.8m in taxes for the billions it earned in Q2, meaning an effective tax rate of 0.5%.

Finally, despite some health setbacks of late, Kühne, 85, said he had no intentions of stepping back from his businesses. Listed by Forbes as the 33rd richest person on the planet today, Kühne said he was still at his desk every day by 8.15 am having been for a swim and a workout.

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.


  1. ““The tonnage tax is unique. But it follows EU law, so the German state can’t do anything about it,” Kühne said.”
    Seems he believes what Nigel Farage, Rees[Mogg and the ERG tells him. He doesn’t have to be taxed according to tonnage, it is his choice, just as being a tax exile in Switzerland is.

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