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CMA CGM In Talks to Buy Ferry Operator La Meridionale

Ferries Piana and Kalliste at Marseille
La Meridionale's docks at Marseille (La Meridionale)

Published Feb 8, 2023 7:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

French container carrier CMA CGM is in talks to buy a passenger ferry operator, La Meridionale, according to the ferry company's owner. If completed, the deal would mark CMA CGM's first return to passenger vessel operations since the sale of luxury cruise line Ponant in 2015. 

La Meridionale's four-vessel fleet provides service to Corsica and Morocco from CMA CGM's hometown of Marseille, as well as a separate service connecting Barcelona with Tangier Med. Its docks and offices are across the street from the CMA CGM headquarters tower on the Marseille waterfront. 

La Meridionale's relatively new Moroccan services are said to be underperforming financially, and its board appointed a new CEO in January to help restructure the operation.

The ferry operator is a division of French conglomerate STEF Group. STEF has owned La Meridionale for decades, but the broader group is known best for its core business as a cold chain company, with operations in reefer transport, trucking, food warehousing and packaging. Its long-term strategy is to become the European leader in refrigerated food transport and logistics. 

The next step in the discussion over a sale will be a consultation with the social and economic council of La Meridionale's workforce, required by French law. STEF has confirmed the transaction to French financial media, but CMA CGM has yet to comment on the record. 

Other notable recent CMA CGM acquisition initiatives include the purchase of car transport firm Gefco; the acquisition of last-mile delivery service Colis Prive; and the deal to buy and delist logistics giant CEVA in 2018.