* Maersk to divest 31 percent stake in shipper DFDS
* Proceeds could amount to 1.67 bln crowns ($296 mln
COPENHAGEN, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Danish oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk has launched the sale of its 31.3 percent stake in Danish shipping company DFDS, which could bring in proceeds of around 1.67 billion Danish crowns ($296 mln).
Maersk sold its shipping-line Norfolkline, which primarily operates in the waters around Britain, to DFDS in July 2010 and received the stake in DFDS as part payment. After a two year lock-up period of the shares, Maersk can now sell the stake.
"As we have said earlier, we have been interested in selling our stake in DFDS, when the timing was right," Maersk chief financial officer Trond Westlie said in a statement.
"This is in line with our continued portfolio optimization," he said.
Maersk plans to spin off some non-core activities to focus on five identified core areas - Maersk Line, APM Terminals, Maersk Oil, Maersk Drilling and Services & Other Shipping.
The group announced the launch of an accelerated book built offering of its DFDS stake on Thursday. Danske Bank and Nordea Markets are joint book runners in the transaction.
Maersk currently holds 4.66 million DFDS shares, which traded down 3.4 percent at 358 crowns per share 0815 GMT.
DFDS said in a separate announcement that it will purchase 1.78 million of the shares, equivalent to 12 percent of its total share capital and intends to cancel those shares.
DFDS' main shareholder Lauritzen Foundation has committed to purchase 300,000 shares, equivalent to 2.0 percent, DFDS said.
Shares in Maersk rose 1.2 percent to 50,050 crowns per share against a 0.3 percent increase in the Copenhagen stock exchange benchmark index OMXC20CAP.