By Gavin van Marle – DP World has completed its acquisition of European feeder and shortsea shipping line Unifeeder after this week securing clearance from European monopolies regulators.
The €660m deal – the first in which a port operator has taken over a carrier – had been investigated by the European Commission’s competition department.
“The commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, as it would have a limited impact on the structure of the markets for the provision of container terminals services and of shortsea shipping services,” it said.
DP World said Unifeeder’s “platforms for hinterland connectivity and multimodal logistics” would strengthen its position as a “global trade enabler”.
The line is the largest feeder operator in Northern Europe, with a network that connects around 100 ports, serving both deepsea container hubs and the intra-Europe container freight market.
“We are delighted to close the Unifeeder acquisition and add their business to our portfolio. We are acquiring a leading port-related logistics solutions provider in Europe as part of our strategy to grow in complementary sectors,” said Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, group chairman and chief executive of DP World.
“This transaction is very relevant to our business and provides future growth opportunities, especially since feedering and shortsea/regional transports with smaller vessels have become more important for shipping lines with the use of larger vessels by shipping alliances.
“Both DP World and Unifeeder businesses operate under the same common-user principle, which is a strong value proposition to our customers and we look forward to joining our expertise to make the global supply chain more efficient and cost effective.
“Our core business is and will continue to be the container terminal, but this acquisition fits with our strategy to diversify our revenues and extend our core business to play a wider role in the global supply chain and connect directly with cargo owners and aggregators of demand, ultimately improving the quality of our earnings and driving returns,” he explained.
Unifeeder chief executive Jesper Kristensen added: “Today we are starting a new chapter in Unifeeder’s growth story and we are confident that, with our shared vision for an efficient supply chain and a value added customer offering, we lay a strong foundation for further success and growth.”
Unifeeder reported revenues of €510m in 2017 and said ebit margins were “in line with other asset-light logistics operators”.
Its fleet of around 40 small containerships is entirely chartered-in and, according to Alphaliner data, it sits 28th in global container line rankings, with a total capacity of 43,000 teu. The feeder line market leader is X-Press, with a capacity of 139,000 teu and a ranking of 13th.
Unifeeder employs around 400 people and last year carried approximately 3.2m teu across its networks.
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