German govt gives conditional nod to COSCO’s minority stake in HHLA container terminal

The German government approved the acquisition of a minority stake in HHLA Container Terminal Tollerort (CTT) by the Chinese company COSCO Shipping Ports Limited (CSPL), Hamburger Hafen und Logistik confirmed earlier today.

Illustration; Image credit: HHLA

The approval is subject to conditions, which include a limitation of the share of voting rights to 24.99 percent. According to German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK), the acquirers will also be “prohibited from otherwise acquiring an effective interest of control of HHLA CTT that goes beyond the influence conveyed by a share of voting rights below 25 percent.”

The decision was preceded by an investment review by the German government lasting 13 months, as is required for the acquisition of shares by companies from non-EU countries.

Originally, the contracting parties had agreed on a 35 percent minority shareholding by CSPL in the Hamburg-based operating company Container Terminal Tollerort GmbH. The corresponding contract had been signed by both parties on September 21, 2021.

However, the deal sparked debate amid national security concerns voiced by both the opposition and the government’s ministries who fear that the deal would give COSCO too much influence on the company’s operations. Hence, by decreasing the stake to 24.9 percent COSCO would be prevented from doing that. However, staunch critics of the deal stress that even with the latest move, the country’s critical infrastructure should not be in the hands of foreign investors, in particular those with autocratic leadership.

HHLA said that it will exchange views with CSPL on the next steps based on the specific framework conditions after the BMWK has delivered its decision.