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Global Supply Chain News: Container Shipping Industry Consolidation Continues on with COSCO Acquisition of Orient Overseas


Deal will Create Third Largest Carrier, as Shippers Concerned about Increasingly Less Options and Competition

July 10, 2017
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Plagued with years of excess capacity, low rates and more red than black ink on the income statement, consolidation in the ocean container shipping sector been rampant in recent years, both in terms of alliances between groups of carriers pooling operating assets and increasingly outright acquisitions.

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Recent analysis of the networks by SeaIntel found a significant reduction in direct port-to-port combinations.

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The latest move: Mainland China's COSCO Shipping announcing over the weekend it was acquiring Hong Kong's Orient Overseas (OOCL) for $6.3 billion, in a move that will create the third largest carrier in the industry.

The deal would also leave basically six supercarriers, grouped into three alliances, moving about three-quarters of all seaborne trade after a wave of consolidation among the world's top 20 carriers over the past year

That as the three major Japanese container carriers are in the final stages of a merger that will result in a single company between them.

Orient Overseas is controlled by the family of former Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa. The two sides had been in talks for months but were stuck over the price.

"The Tungs did not want to sell," a person involved in the deal told the Wall Street Journal. "But there was a lot of political pressure from Beijing to make it happen and at the end they gave in with a fair price at hand."

The Chinese government is very interested in being a leader in the global shipping market.

When the deal is complete, COSCO will become the third-biggest container operator in terms of capacity, behind Denmark's Maersk Line and Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Co. It would also create the second-biggest mover of US imports, with a 10.8% market share, and the third-largest in terms of US exports, with an 8.5% share. The combined lines will have a fleet of more than 400 ships, with a capacity of 2.9 million TEU, including ships on order.

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"This is negative for Maersk and MSC," Corrine Png, chief executive of Singapore-based transport stock researcher Crucial Perspective, told Reuters. The deal will make the Chinese shipper a "tougher competitor to deal with on the major trade lanes."

The COSCO acquisition of OOCL is just the latest in a series of such moves. In addition to the merger among the Japanese carriers, COSCO had earlier acquired the second largest Chinese carrier China Shipping, Maersk bought Germany's Hamburg Süd for $4 billion, and French giant CMA CGM, which would now lose its third-place ranking to COSCO, acquired Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines for $2.5 billion.

After this COSCO acquisition, the top six operators would move about 70% of global container capacity and 69% of all US exports and imports, according to Copenhagen-based SeaIntelligence Consulting.

COSCO and OOCL were both members of the Ocean Alliance, with Evergreen and CMA CGM.

Between the alliances and the mergers, shippers are increasingly concerned about fewer option and great pricing power by the remaining lines.

For example, recent analysis of the networks by SeaIntel found a significant reduction in direct port-to-port combinations.

"This will have a clear impact for shippers and forwarders, as less direct combinations will necessarily lead to more cargo needing to be transshipped," the analyst concluded.

Are you concerned aout the level of consolidation in the container shipping sector? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback ection below.


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