China’s COSCO to buy Orient Overseas for $6.3 billion

BEIJING — China’s biggest shipping company, state-owned COSCO Shipping Holdings Co., is creating the world’s No. 3 container shipping giant by acquiring rival Orient Overseas (International) Ltd.

Shares in both companies surged Monday following the announcement of the $6.3 billion deal.

A wave of consolidation has created huge competitors in a global shipping industry that is struggling with sluggish trade and depressed prices.

On Monday, COSCO’s shares traded in Hong Kong jumped 4.7 per cent while Orient Overseas’ shares soared 19.5 per cent.

On its own, COSCO ranks No. 4 globally with 317 ships and 8.4 per cent of container traffic, according to Alphaline, an industry database. Adding Orient Overseas would give it market share of 11.7 per cent, moving it ahead of Marseilles, France-based CMA CGM Group.

The No. 1 shipper is Denmark’s AP Moeller-Maersk with 643 ships and 16.4 per cent of container traffic.

Orient Overseas, with 103 ships, is controlled by the family of former Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa.

The transaction is subject to antitrust review by Chinese, European and U.S. authorities, according to a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The filing said COSCO will pay $10.07 per share (HK$78.67), a premium of 38 per cent over Orient’s Friday share price on the Hong Kong Exchange. The total price tag for the deal will be $6.3 billion (HK$49.2 billion).

AP Moeller-Maersk acquired Hamburg Sud of Germany in December. CMA CGM bought Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines last year.

Orient Overseas reported a loss of $219.2 million last year. It blamed a glut of capacity, slow growth and rising fuel prices as well as freight rates that sometimes dipped below those seen in 2009 during the financial crisis.

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