Maersk Line may be looking to buy Hamburg Süd, the German-owned line focused on South American routes. It would be Maersk's first acquisition of an entire shipping company in more than a decade.
Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that the Oetker family, which has owned Hamburg Süd since 1955, were thinking of selling. On Monday the Journal identified Maersk as a potential buyer. Other potential names included CMA CGM and China COSCO.
The purchase would give Maersk a boost in the South American market, and it would give Hamburg Süd's operations access to Maersk’s global scale: Maersk Line is the largest carrier, and it is one-half of the massive 2M alliance. Hamburg Süd is not presently a member of an alliance, and its capacity accounts for about three percent of the world's total.
Maersk has indicated that it will seek to grow through acquisitions rather than newbuildings, given the ample supply of existing tonnage in an oversupplied, depressed market. It has already acquired charters on six 13,000 TEU vessels previously used by Hanjin Shipping, which is presently in bankruptcy proceedings.
Hamburg Süd considered a merger with Hapag-Lloyd in 2013. The talks did not succeed, and Hapag went on to initiate mergers with CSAV and UASC instead.
Media reports suggest the Oetker family will meet to discuss Hamburg Süd's fate on Wednesday. The Oetker Group and Hamburg Süd have declined to comment on any potential sale, but Hamburger Abendblatt reports that there is a division within the family about which course to take: Rudolf August Oetker's eldest sons are said to favor keeping Hamburg Süd, while his younger children favor a sale. The family's corporate group has a wide range of other business interests, from wine to private banking to food products – but shipping is by far its largest division, accounting for about half of group sales last year.