MSC vows to acquire a 49% shareholding in Hamburg’s HHLA

A wholly owned subsidiary of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s largest container shipping company, has revealed plans to acquire a substantial 49% shareholding in HHLA Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG, a prominent port operation, container transport, and logistics group headquartered in Hamburg, Germany.

Illustration; Image credit: HHLA

Specifically, HHLA revealed that on September 13, the Port of Hamburg Beteiligungsgesellschaft SE, a subsidiary of Aponte family-controlled MSC decided to submit a voluntary public takeover offer to its shareholders.

Under the bid, MSC wants to acquire all registered no-par value shares of class A stock in the company. Each of these shares represents a portion of the company’s capital worth EUR 1.00. The offer involves paying EUR 16.75 for each A-share.

The proposal envisages MSC making a premium offer to purchase HHLA’s free float, while the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg will supply the additional shares necessary to reach the 49% ownership stake.

This strategic acquisition encompasses all facets of the HHLA group, encompassing its rail logistics affiliates, Hamburg terminals, and container terminal assets located outside of Germany, including Tallinn-Muuga, Odesa, and Trieste. Importantly, third-party shareholdings in individual terminals will remain unaffected by this change in ownership at the holding level of HHLA, according to Alphaliner.

Beyond the financial transaction, MSC has made a series of commitments designed to foster growth in both employment opportunities and container throughput at the Port of Hamburg. Among these commitments is MSC’s pledge to facilitate the movement of an additional 1.00 million twenty-foot equivalent units (Mteu) annually through the HHLA terminals located in Hamburg, Alphaliner said.

Furthermore, the Swiss-Italian group is planning to relocate its German liner shipping headquarters from Bremen to Hamburg, a move that underscores the company’s long-term commitment to the region. Additionally, the German center for MSC Cruises’ cruise operations will be shifted from Munich to Hamburg, further strengthening the city’s position as a hub for maritime and logistics activities.

The takeover offer is subject to approval from relevant competition law and other regulatory bodies as well as the federal state parliament of Hamburg (Hamburgische Bürgerschaft).

The offer is being announced on the heels of the German government’s approval of the acquisition of 24.9 percent share in Container Terminal Tollerort (CTT), a subsidiary of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA), by the Chinese company COSCO Shipping Ports Limited (CSPL).

The decision will now enable CTT to be expanded into a preferred handling location for HHLA’s long-standing customer COSCO, where freight flows between Asia and Europe will concentrate.

China is currently Germany’s and the Port of Hamburg’s largest trading partner: around 30 percent of the goods handled in the Port of Hamburg come from China or go to China.

Initially, the involved parties had reached an agreement regarding a 35 percent minority shareholding by CSPL.

However, the deal raised concerns and led to a heated debate, as various stakeholders, including the opposition and government ministries, expressed worries about national security implications. They feared that granting COSCO too much influence over the company’s operations could pose risks. As a result, in an effort to address these concerns, the stake has been reduced to 24.9 percent.