The shipping arm of Danish conglomerate A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S is looking to buy German peer Hamburg Süd, people with knowledge of the matter said, a deal that would help Maersk Line boost its presence in global trade with Latin America.
Maersk Line, the world’s leading container-shipping operator, is interested in acquiring the entire Hamburg Süd business, which had $6.7 billion in revenue in 2015, not just picking up a few vessels, a person familiar with the matter said.
While it has bought or chartered ships from distressed peers like Korea’s Hanjin Shipping Co., which declared bankruptcy in August, Maersk’s last full-scale acquisition was in 2005 when it bought P&O Nedlloyd.
Hamburg Süd, the world’s seventh-biggest container operator in terms of capacity, is part of the Oetker Group, a family-owned German conglomerate involved in shipping, banking, food and beverages.
The Wall Street Journal last week reported that the Oetker family was discussing a sale of the shipping business as early as this year. A person involved in the matter said the family will likely make a decision on whether to sell this week.
Maersk, which moves about 15% of global seaborne freight, has publicly said it is looking for acquisitions to increase its market share during one of the most challenging times for the industry, with freight rates well below sustainable levels over the past two years.
Container ships that transport 95% of the world’s manufactured products are caught in one of the deepest ever down-cycles, marked by anemic global trade and a glut of tonnage in the water.