CMA CGM Set to Ink Debt Deal in January

CMA CGM Set to Ink Debt Deal in January

CMA CGM is on the verge of a hard-fought agreement with its banks to restructure $4.6 billion of loans, ending months of uncertainty over the future of the world’s third-largest ocean carrier.

Michel Sirat, chief financial officer of the French container line, said a “deal in principle” has been struck with 72 creditor banks that is expected to be finalized by January, 2013.

The banks have agreed to defer by two years $400 million of debt due to mature in February and have modified CMA CGM’s loan covenants.

The Marseilles-based carrier’s total debt is $5.7 billion, including $1.1 billion in two bonds.

The breakthrough in the restructuring negotiations was accompanied by strong third quarter figures, with net earnings of $371million on revenue up 9 percent from a year earlier at $4.2 billion. Traffic grew to 2.7 million 20-foot-equivalent units from 2.6 million.

CMA CGM was the best performing ocean carrier in the third quarter with an operating margin of 12.8 percent compared with Maersk Line’s 7.9 percent and Hapag-Lloyd’s 4.9 percent, Sirat said.

The fourth quarter is less favorable than July-September, but is still profitable, he said.

Negotiations to sell a 49 percent stake in Terminal Link, the group’s port operating arm, are “very advanced” and a deal likely will be signed in early 2013. No further assets sales are planned, Sirat said.