COSCO Shipping Ports announced a major new incursion into the European ports sector today in the form of an agreement to take over from APM Terminals as majority shareholder in APM Terminals Zeebrugge (APMTZ).
The Chinese group, which has made a number of investments in the European ports sector in recent months, is to buy out its partners, APM Terminals and Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG), for EUR35 million (USD42.04 million).
Under the terms of the agreement, which the two parties hope to finalise by the end of November, APM Terminals, which has a 51% holding in the terminal, will acquire the 25% held by SIPG and then sell the resulting 76% holding to COSCO Shipping Ports.
APM Terminals opened the Zeebrugge terminal in 2004 and sold COSCO its existing 24% stake in 2014.
COSCO Shipping and its Ocean Alliance partners are currently the port’s major customers and have a long-term interest in developing cargo volumes at the port, according to APM Terminals.
COSCO Shipping Ports said today that the Zeebrugge terminal would be the first in north west Europe in which it would have a controlling stake.
“The company believes that, holding a controlling stake in APMTZ aligns with the company’s stated strategy of developing a comprehensive and well-balanced global terminals network.”
It added that the acquisition would also help it to follow the development of the regular line network of fellow COSCO group member, COSCO Shipping Lines.
Wim Lagaay, head of APM Terminals USA and Europe, said that the group’s decision to sell its interest in the Zeebrugge terminal corresponded to its strategy of concentrating on its long-term assets.
“We believe COSCO Shipping Ports is the right long-term owner of the Zeebrugge facility and will continue to grow the port for customers, employees, and the Zeebrugge stakeholder community.”
The Dutch group pointed out that the two groups were already partners in major container terminals in Egypt and China, while, in October 2016, COSCO Shipping Ports acquired a 40% stake in APM Terminals’ Vado Holding in the Italian port of Vado.
Vado Holding owns the 300,000 teu annual capacity reefer terminal at the port of Vado, but is also set to take full control of Vado Container Terminal, a new 600,000 teu annual capacity deepwater facility due into service next year.
COSCO Shipping Ports has made a number of other major investments in the European port sector in recent months.
In May 2016, it acquired a 35% interest in Euromax Terminal Rotterdam (Euromax) for EUR41.43 million from Hutchison Port Holdings subsidiary ECT Participations. The automatic terminal, which came into service in 2010, is currently being expanded to take its annual handling capacity to 3.2 million teu.
Also last year, the company strengthened its position at the leading Greek port of Piraeus, where it has been an operator since 2009. It paid EUR280.5 million (USD314 million) for a 51% shareholding in the port as part of a plan to develop it as a hub for trade between Asia and eastern Europe.
Most recently, in June this year, it announced that it had agreed to buy a 51% holding in Spain’s Noatum Port Holdings from holding company TPIH for EUR203.49 million (USD244.44 million). The deal gives it a controlling interest in container terminals in the ports of Valencia and Bilbao, as well as two rail terminals.