Billionaire Negotiating for Investment in CMA CGM

Billionaire Negotiating for Investment in CMA CGM

Belgian billionaire financier Albert Frere is in negotiations with CMA CGM to acquire a stake in the heavily indebted French ocean container carrier, according to media reports.

An agreement with Frere is near, French news agency AFP said, quoting a financial source.

Butler Capital Partners, a Paris-based private equity group that owns 38 percent of French ferry company SNCM, reportedly is also interested in investing in the world’s third largest ocean carrier.

CMA CGM is seeking to put together a group of investors by a midnight deadline, set by the commercial court overseeing restructuring of the carrier, which has debts of around $5.3 billion.

A CMA CGM spokesman declined to comment on whether the Marseilles-based carrier would seek an extension of the deadline in order to conclude negotiations.

Reports of the negotiations with Frere, Belgium’s richest citizen, follow the recent break down of talks between CMA CGM and Qatar Holding over the conditions set by the Qatari sovereign wealth fund for a $500 million cash infusion.

Negotiations with Colony Capital also failed but the Los Angeles-based investment fund said it is still prepared to invest in CMA CGM along with Qatar Holding.

There are reports that CMA CGM, which has been in negotiations with potential investors since September, resumed talks with Qatar Holding, said to be the investor preferred by France’s SFI sovereign wealth fund.

The SFI said it will participate in CMA CGM’s reorganization once the company has reached agreement with investors.

--Contact Bruce Barnard at brucebarnard47@hotmail.com.