CMA CGM denied reports Friday it is close to signing a $2 billion order for 20 large container ships from China, but the ocean carrier confirmed it is discussing possible charter deals with shipyards and financiers.
The world’s third-largest carrier stressed it has no short-term plans to either purchase or charter for long terms any vessels.
The French container line was responding to a report in Chinese newspaper Ta Kung Pao that it is talking with China Shipbuilding and State Shipbuilding about an order for 20 ships of 9,000 to 10,000 20-foot equivalent units.
CMA CGM has turned to the state-owned yards because financing is easier than in Europe, where banks are reducing their exposure to shipping, the paper said.
Korean yards had declined to arrange financing for new ships prompting CMA CGM to approach Chinese shipbuilders, according to the paper, which is close to the Beijing government.
The Export-Import Bank of China is reported to be considering providing CMA CGM with comprehensive financing for the order.
CMA CGM said its current fleet of 408 modern ships, of which 92 are owned, is adequate to meet the current needs of its customers and provide an end-to-end service around the world.
“In today’s economic environment, CMA CGM’s priorities are to reduce its debt and to strengthen its financial position,” the Marseille-based carrier said in a statement.
CMA CGM came close to collapse during the 2009 container shipping slump but has returned to profit following a restructuring in 2010 that included a $500 million capital injection by Turkey’s Yildirim group.
“Looking beyond 2013 and in line with its long-term commitment to driving continuous improvement in fleet efficiency, the Group is looking at various charter projects with a number of shipyards and financial partners,” the company said.
“While CMA CGM will pursue these non-binding discussions over the next few months, it has no intention to reach an agreement in the near future.”