MSC Buys Bolloré Group's African Ports Division for $6.4B

bollore group
Courtesy Bolloré Group

Published Dec 21, 2021 5:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

Global shipping giant MSC has made an offer of $6.4 billion to acquire the Africa operations of Bolloré Group, a French logistics and transportation conglomerate which is exiting the continent after a long-running bribery scandal. 

The Bolloré Group announced that it has received an offer from the MSC Group to acquire 100 percent of Bolloré Africa Logistics, comprising all of the Bolloré Group’s transport and logistics activities in Africa. 

“The Bolloré Group has granted the MSC Group an exclusivity until 31 March 2022 to enable the MSC Group, further to an additional due diligence phase and contractual negotiations, to submit a put option,” said Bolloré Group in a statement.

The company added that the decision to exercise this put option and the signature of the relevant agreements may only take place after employee representative bodies have been consulted and an internal reorganization has been carried out. Completion of the sale would also require the approval of regulatory and competition authorities, as well as certain counterparties of Bolloré Africa Logistics.

For MSC, the number-one ocean carrier by capacity, an agreement to acquire Bolloré’s Africa operations is a significant move towards realizing its ambitious plans to expand services in the continent. Currently the shipping giant has 50 ocean and feeder services into Africa, making 123 weekly calls at 60 African ports.

CMA CGM, Maersk and Cosco had also expresssed interest in acquiring Bolloré Africa Logistics.

Bolloré Group, which has been planning to exit Africa since 2020, is present in 42 African ports and operates 16 container terminals on the continent, and it employs about 20,000 people. The company also operates three rail concessions, namely Sitarail in Burkina Faso, Camrail in Cameroon and Benirai in Benin.

The firm is majority-owned and controlled by the family of French businessman Vincent Bolloré.  In 2018, French courts opened a formal investigation into whether Mr. Bolloré's firm had employed bribery to build its African port operations. The firm's Paris headquarters were searched, and Mr. Bolloré and two top executives were questioned by France's financial crimes unit. The line of inquiry included questions about whether the group had boosted the election campaigns of favored politicians in Guinea and Togo, earning port concessions in exchange.

In February 2021, Bolloré Group paid $14.5 million to settle a related investigation into its Togo operations. The settlement ended an inquiry into "the corruption of foreign public officials, abuse of trust and complicity in breaches of trust committed between 2009 and 2011," according to French Financial Prosecutor Jean-François Bohnert.

Though it is exiting the transport and logistics industry in Africa, Bolloré Group said it will remain strongly involved in the continent's media industry. It still owns Canal+, the leading pay-TV operator in French-speaking Africa, and it is a major shareholder in MultiChoice, the leading pay-TV operator in English-speaking Africa.