Hapag-Lloyd’s biggest shareholder Klaus Michael-Kuehne said Hamburg Süd should have an equal share in the planned merger of the two German ocean carriers.
“My assumption is that there will be parity in the beginning,” Kuehne, majority owner of Swiss logistics giant Kuehne + Nagel, told German newspaper Die Welt.
The carriers announced in December that they were exploring the terms of a merger that would create the world’s fourth-largest container shipping line.
A previous attempt to join forces in 1997 fell through at the last minute because of differences over valuation, ownership and shareholder control of an enlarged carrier.
Hamburg Süd is believed to be insisting on an equal or even controlling stake in a merged carrier, despite being a smaller company, because it is in a stronger financial position than Hapag-Lloyd.
Kuehne, who has spent more than $1.3 billion for a 28 percent stake in Hapag-Lloyd, said the Oetker family, which owns Hamburg Süd, would have to commit to take the new company public in the medium term as a pre-condition for a merger.
An initial public offering “won’t happen tomorrow or the day after, but it also won’t take five years. I think a time horizon of two to three years is realistic,” Kuehne said, according to Reuters.
“An ideal scenario would be for Oetker to hold maybe 40 percent, for me to hold a blocking majority of 25 percent or a little less in the long term, and for the rest to be floated.”
Kuehne said if there is no agreement with Hamburg Süd, he would push for Hapag-Lloyd to go public on its own. “But I do not wish for this to happen.”
The logistics billionaire also renewed his call for the merged carrier to link up with an Asian line, calling Singapore’s NOL a “very suitable” partner.
Hapag-Lloyd is owned 78 percent by the Hamburg-based Albert Ballin consortium, including Kuehne and the city of Hamburg, with German tourism group TUI holding the remaining 22 percent, which it plans to unload in the current year.