NOL CEO says takeover would be good for Hapag - FT

SINGAPORE, Aug 20 (Reuters) - German shipping group Hapag-Lloyd would benefit from a takeover by rival Neptune Orient Lines NEPS.SI, as did U.S. container group APL when it was bought by the Singapore firm, the FT on Wednesday quoted NOL's boss as saying.

State-controlled NOL’s offer to buy Hapag in a deal estimated to be worth up to 5 billion euros ($7.4 billion) has caused concern and protests in Germany, not least about possible job cuts.

The German government has welcomed a bid by a group of Hamburg-based investors to keep the firm, a unit of travel company TUI TUIGn.DE, in German hands.

"APL was acquired by a foreign company as a company that at the time had a 150-year history and has many of the same emotions and concerns on the part of the people that worked for APL in terms of being acquired by a foreign company," NOL NEPS.SI Chief Executive Ron Widdows told the Financial Times.

“The fact is if APL had not been acquired by NOL it would not exist today,” he said, adding that APL’s brand had survived the takeover because NOL had been thoughtful about what it was buying.

NOL bought American President Lines in 1997 and has kept the brand name for its core container shipping business. Widdows, who took over as CEO last month after the abrupt exit of German-born CEO Thomas Held, joined NOL at the time of the APL takeover.

“I’m a personal example of how you can put two companies together and take advantage of the strength of what is inside those organisations,” Widdows said.

The fact that NOL is 66 percent owned by Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings [TEM.UL] has added to the controversy in Germany. On Tuesday, nearly 300 Hapag-Lloyd workers protested outside Singapore’s Berlin embassy against the possible deal, a day before the cabinet is due to pass a law to shield domestic firms from foreign buyers. (Reporting by Jan Dahinten; Editing by Louise Heavens)