In an audacious bid to take control of one of the world’s top ports, China has announced plans to own the next generation of major global shipping terminals in a deal worth up to $11bn.
The proposed acquisition of the world’s second-biggest port operator, APM Terminals of Rotterdam, marks a huge setback for rival German shipping firm Hapag-Lloyd, which is now in a race against time to find a buyer before Friday’s deadline.
Advocates for the deal say China’s global ambitions will be boosted by the port operator’s global expertise in handling billions of tonnes of commodities and trade products.
“We have confirmed our intention to acquire and will now analyse the investment risks, taking into account further discussions with potential partners and customers,” said a spokesman for the Chinese conglomerate, which owns industrial facilities including mobile phone maker Huawei.
Although the deal was announced in October, final stages are being held up by regulatory hurdles. The Netherlands’ competition authority has said it would take a “close, independent look” at the proposed purchase, which is likely to attract an EU investigation as APM Terminals is a major port operator on the west coast of Africa.
It would be one of the biggest foreign takeovers by a Chinese firm and comes amid rising tensions between Beijing and the west as the two superpowers clash over China’s efforts to expand its influence and military capabilities globally.
The deal – one of a spate of Chinese takeover bids for overseas ports – is expected to be completed this year as the Chinese firm’s main shareholders are already committed to taking their investments into the new publicly listed entity to avoid any anti-trust rules.
APM Terminals announced an agreement last year to buy PSA (formerly Port Terminals Europe) Group – the owner of eight of the world’s top ports including those in Rotterdam, Antwerp and Piraeus, Greece – for $6.9bn.
ASM Holding, the world’s largest terminal operator, in which China’s top steel producer, Baosteel, is a major shareholder, is also considering a purchase of French ports operator SNCF from China’s state-owned CNR Group.
BSE Global, the global container port operator owned by HKEDA and DP World, is considering a purchase of Holland’s ADM Terminals and APM Terminals, while Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) has made an offer for container terminal operator APM Terminals, owned by Australian ports operator Asciano.
CCS Asset Management, which owns a stake in APM Terminals, and the port operator’s current owners, the Fundo Group and Minderoo Group, said they “are fully supportive of the contemplated transaction”.
“The funds in question will be used to ensure that the purchasers of APM Terminals’ shares continue to be large and reputable investors, and to create significant value for their shareholders,” the Fundo Group said.