Maersk Said to Plan Drilling Spinoff to Focus on Transport

Maersk’s first XLE jack-up, Maersk Intrepid (left), next to one its sister rigs. Photo taken in February 2014. Photo: Maersk Drilling

Update: Maersk Confirms Drilling Unit Spin-Off

By Manuel Baigorri, Ruth David and Matthew Miller (Bloomberg) — A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S is planning to spin off its drilling unit instead of pursuing a sale as the Danish conglomerate shifts focus to its transport activities, according to people familiar with the matter.

The world’s biggest shipping company may announce the business separation as early as Friday, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. Maersk is likely to opt for a spinoff after takeover bids for the unit were deemed too low, the people said. No final decision has been made and the exact structure of the separation wasn’t immediately clear.

A representative for Copenhagen-based Maersk said that the company is investigating various options and will announce the outcome when ready. The firm is scheduled to report its second-quarter financial results on Friday.

Maersk’s U.S.-traded shares rose as much as 6.4 percent.

Maersk has been shedding energy units to focus on its transport business, giving itself until the end of this year to streamline its structure. In 2017, it agreed to sell its oil and gas business and tanker operations for almost $10 billion combined, leaving its drilling arm and a supply-service unit.

Maersk held talks about selling the drilling business to oilfield-services company Rowan Cos. last year in a deal that may have valued the assets at about $4 billion if it had gone ahead, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

Maersk Drilling, which employs about 4,000 people, specializes in large rigs that can work in harsh environments. Its fleet includes about 15 jack-up rigs, four semi-submersibles and four drill-ships. Maersk took a $1.75 billion impairment on the unit in November and reclassified it as “discontinued operations,” signalling a sale had moved closer.

Maersk issued a profit warning this month, lowering its full-year outlook based on higher fuel costs and its estimates for freight rates for the rest of the year. Container-shipping companies worldwide face a $7 billion increase in fuel costs this year as oil prices climb, said Nilesh Tiwary, an analyst at Drewry Maritime Financial Research, in July.

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