HONG KONG–China Shipping Container Lines Co. (2866.HK), or CSCL, plans to sell a fifth of its shipping containers for US$358.6 million to raise cash and strengthen its financial position amid a shipping downturn.

The world’s ninth-largest container shipping company by capacity said in a statement Monday it has agreed to sell 139,941 containers that have been in use for between three and six years to CLC Maritime Container Leasing Co.

CLC Maritime will then lease the containers back to CSCL for four years for about US$221.27 million.

The containers, with an aggregate capacity of 210,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, represented 20% of CSCL’s container capacity at the end of last year, it said.

It said it will use the net proceeds from the disposal for working capital, and added it expects to book a gain of around US$112 million from the deal.

Word of the sale comes after the Hong Kong- and Shanghai-listed container shipper in October reported that it swung to a third-quarter net profit of 991.05 million yuan (US$157.3 million), compared with a net loss of CNY951.23 million a year earlier, because of improved container rates.

The company recorded a net loss of CNY289.9 million for the January-September period, weighed by softening international trade and persistently high fuel prices.

-By Joanne Chiu. (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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