TUI confirmed it is talking with potential investors about the sale of its stake in German ocean container carrier Hapag-Lloyd but did not reveal their identities.
Europe's biggest tourism group also said it is still weighing the alternative of an initial public offering as a way to eventually exit the container shipping business.
Onyx Investment, Oman's state-controlled investment fund, and HNA, China's fourth largest airline group have been named as potential investors in the world's fourth largest ocean carrier.
TUI was responding to reports that Onyx, which is ultimately controlled by the Sultan of Oman, is close to acquiring a 15 percent stake in Hapag-Lloyd.
Analysts view a sale to strategic investors as a preferable option to an IPO at a time of falling ocean container rates, especially on the Asia-Europe trade, where Hapag-Lloyd has a significant presence.
Hapag-Lloyd reportedly postponed an IPO, provisionally scheduled for April 15, due to market volatility in the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and political upheaval in North Africa and the Middle East.
TUI said in March, when it announced plans for an IPO, that it would sell an 11.33 percent stake in Hapag-Lloyd to its majority shareholder, the Albert Ballin consortium of investors. This would reduce its shareholding to 38.4 percent.
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