Hamburg city pushes for Hapag-Lloyd, Hamburg Sued shipping merger

KIEL, Germany, April 8 Mon Apr 8, 2013 1:11pm EDT

KIEL, Germany, April 8 (Reuters) - The city of Hamburg wants shippers Hapag-Lloyd and Hamburg Sued to resume merger talks so that they stand a better chance of surviving a four-year slump in the sector, a city official told Reuters.

The city of Hamburg is the largest shareholder of Hapag-Lloyd, with a stake of almost 37 percent. A merger with Hamburg Sued would give the city and TUI AG, which owns 22 percent, a chance to reduce their holdings.

"We will do everything to accomplish this merger in the foreseeable future," Hamburg's economy minister Frank Horch said on the sidelines of a maritime conference in the northern German city of Kiel on Monday.

Hapag-Lloyd and Hamburg Sued ended talks last month to create the world's fourth largest shipper after failing to agree on which of the two should have management control.

Hamburg Sued was pushing for a bigger weighting in a merged company, contrasting with calls from Hapag-Lloyd shareholder, Klaus-Michael Kuehne, with a 28 percent stake, for a merger of equals.

The companies left the door ajar for another attempt, however, saying the merger discussions were only temporarily called off.

With a combined fleet of more than 250 ships, a merged entity would give the companies much-needed global scale to survive low cargo volumes as Europe battles with economic recession.

Horch said the city was keen to act as a moderator to ensure an agreement acceptable to both sides was reached, although he admitted this would not be easy. The two companies tried and failed to join forces 16 years ago.

"But I believe that if we are determined to convince and are coordinated, then we have a good chance," Horch said.

Last month, Hapag-Lloyd reported a 128 million euro ($166.62 million)loss for 2012, prompting it to defer the delivery of new ships. ($1 = 0.7682 euros) (Reporting by Jan Schwartz; Writing by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

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