French ocean carrier CMA CGM has agreed to sell a 49 percent stake in its Terminal Link ports unit to China Merchants Holdings for 400 million euros ($540 million).
The companies said they expect to close on the deal, which is subject to several regulatory approvals, in the first half of 2013.
Terminal Link, a wholly owned subsidiary of Marseilles-based CMA CGM, operates 15 container terminals in France, West Africa, the U.S. and Canada as well as Malta Freeport, a major Mediterranean transhipment hub.
Terminal Link is the world’s 12th-largest container terminal operator, handling 8.1 million 20-foot-equivalent units in 2011.
CMA CGM said the deal provides “a unique opportunity to accelerate its development into and strengthen exposure to emerging markets-driven trade flows, and in particular inbound and outbound China container traffic.”
The Terminal Link deal is part of a cash-raising program by CMA CGM, which has been undergoing a major restructuring after it ran up debts of more than $5 billion taken on to build the world’s third-largest container fleet.
CMA CGM sold a 50 percent stake in Malta Freeport to Turkey’s Yildirim group for a reported $300 million in late 2011.
Yildirim also injected $500 million into CMA CGM for a 20 percent stake, which was raised to 24 percent following a $100 million bond purchase in October, when France’s sovereign wealth fund invested $150 million, giving it a 6 percent stake.
The Terminal Link deal takes China Merchants’ spending on terminal assets to $762 million in the past month. It paid $185 million for a 23.5 percent stake in Port de Djibouti SA, the operator of a container terminal and multipurpose cargo facility in the port of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
Earlier, the state-owned company joined China Shipping Terminal and Cosco Pacific in the $135 million acquisition of a 30 percent stake in a Taiwanese container terminal owned and operated by ocean carrier Yang Ming Marine Transport.
China Merchants, which has terminals in the major ports in mainland China and in Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Africa, handled more than 60 million TEUs in 2012.