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Hapag-Lloyd Container Business Sold

A consortium of Hamburg businessmen and the city government of Hamburg have outbid Singapore's Neptune Orient Line (NOL) for the container business of Hapag-Lloyd.

Klaus-Michael Kühne, head of Kuehne + Nagel, which recently broke ground on a logistics site near Hamburg, and Christian Olearius of MM Warburg are top figures in the group acquiring Hapag-Lloyd. Current Hapag-Lloyd parent TUI will buy back one-third of the company. Though TUI is selling the container line to focus on its tourism businesses, its partial stake in Hapag-Lloyd has been described as a means to bring the deal down to a price that both valued the operation fairly and brought it within reach of the buyers.

The enterprise value of €4.45 billion ($6 billion) was a “fair value under normal market conditions,” according to TUI.

One of the goals of the consortium acquiring the shipping line is to keep it in Hamburg. Hamburg is Europe's second largest container port and Hapag-Lloyd is the world's fifth largest container line (handling 2.8 million twenty-foot-equivalent units through June 2008).

Uncertain markets have had another impact on logistics companies in Germany. The expected floatation of Deutsche Bahn's DBP Mobility Logistics did not take place at the end of October as planned. The forwarding and logistics business will remain with the national railway, Deutsche Bahn (DB) for the time being.

Hartmut Mehldorn, chairman and CEO of DB, has said he'd like to see more consolidation of the European transport markets. DB already holds Schenker and was rumored to be in negotiations for a large motor carrier. Its recent expansions in rail include Transfesa in Spain and EWS in the UK.

The government had expected to raise €8 billion ($11 billion) through the floatation but some industry sources indicated that even a figure of €5 billion ($6.8 billion) would be optimistic in the current economic climate.

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