Klaus-Michael Kuehne’s vision of new shipping giant

In a long interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, published on Friday, Klaus-Michael Kuehne commented that Hapag-Lloyd is looking to merge not just with Hamburg Süd, but possibly also NOL. In addition, he believes the period of big mergers in the logistics sector is over.

The main thrust of the interview concerned Hapag-Lloyd’s future relationship with fellow German container shipping company Hamburg Süd. According to Kuehne, planning for a merger between the two companies started in November of last year.

His vision is for a “merger of equals” between the owners of Hapag-Lloyd and the Oetker family that owns Hamburg Süd, with the Oetker’s owning around 40-50% of the equity of the new merged entity and with him owning around 25%.

He also envisages an initial public offering of the new merged company, with a time-horizon of two to three years. By then, Klaus-Michael Kuehne said he expected the container shipping market would have begun to recover from its situation of over-supply.

The necessity of such a merger has been heightened by the brutal conditions in the container shipping market, fuelled by the “cut-throat competition” from the Chinese state shipping companies, but also the need to compete with the largest shipping lines. Klaus-Michael Kuehne added that it would be his “dream” to add a Far Eastern line to the combination, specifically NOL which he views as “very suitable”.

Kuehne also briefly commented on issues concerning Kuehne + Nagel, saying that the rationalisation of the regional management structure announced last week was driven by a need to contain costs. He also described land transport as Kuehne + Nagel’s “Achilles heel”, whilst hinting that the company was looking to build-up contract logistics in the Far East.

Asked if the failure of the take-over of TNT Express by UPS meant the era of major mergers in logistics was over, he replied that with margins in logistics under pressure the “appetite for acquisitions seems to be missing”.