NOL chief sees no takeover targets

NOL chief sees no takeover targets

Neptune Orient Lines would rather buy back its own stock than acquire rivals given existing valuations, said its chief executive David Lim.

"The priority is to grow the business, but to grow it in a sensible way," Lim said in an interview with Bloomberg. "I don't see anything out there that is price-attractive compared to my own shares."

NOL had to issue at least two statements this year denying speculation it would make an acquisition to expand its market share, after raising US$308 million last November.

Under Lim's predecessor Flemming Jacobs, NOL had considered buying P&O Nedlloyd Container Lines, the world's second largest shipping line.

Lim said the company may consider returning cash to shareholders, and will 'evaluate it later', once it pays down its debt.

NOL's return to profit last year, after two consecutive years of losses, and the sale of some assets have helped cut debt to $1.3 billion at the end of its first quarter, from $2.7 billion a year ago.

Asia's third-largest container shipping company said last week its first-quarter profit rose by a greater-than-expected eight times to $163 million, as it carried more cargo and raised rates to the U.S. and Europe.

Lim also said moves by Beijing to slow down growth may benefit container shipping companies, as that will cut the prices of steel and ships, while not affecting exports of goods to the U.S. and Europe.