October 25, 2018 / 6:18 AM / 20 days ago

France's CMA CGM offers to buy out other Ceva shareholders

PARIS/ZURICH (Reuters) - French shipping group CMA CGM will offer to buy out other shareholders of Ceva Logistics (CEVAL.S) in a move to reinforce its partnership with the Swiss transport company, possibly resulting in it gaining majority control.

CMA CGM, which already owns around a third of Ceva’s share capital, said it would launch a voluntary buyout offer of 30 Swiss francs per share in cash, matching this month’s rejected takeover bid by Danish freight company DSV (DSV.CO).

Ceva shares jumped 32 percent to 29.65 Swiss francs, around the level of CMA CGM’s offer price.

Vontobel analysts said the offer was attractive given the current market environment, while Berenberg saw a counterbid as unlikely, adding that “it would take an offer substantially above CHF 30 to give CMA pause for thought”.

The buyout offer would be pre-announced by Nov. 30 at the latest, CMA CGM said, adding that it was committed to keeping Ceva listed on the Swiss stock exchange with a significant free float in terms of the share capital.

The offer of 30 Swiss francs per share values the company at about 1.6 billion Swiss francs ($1.6 billion).

A Ceva spokesman said the CMA CGM offer may only match DSV’s approach but that CSA had been a strategic partner for Ceva since its IPO in May, which priced its shares at 27.50 Swiss francs.

“It is definitely a different situation,” he said. “It is seen not just as an investment but as a strategic investment that will benefit both parties.”

Asked whether the offer was agreed, he said: “It is in the sense of both boards of directors and companies.”

CMA CGM, one of the world’s largest container shipping lines, has highlighted non-maritime transport as an important growth area and complementary to more volatile shipping markets. It also plans to transfer its freight-management activities to Ceva as part of the deal, the companies said on Thursday.

“This industrial cooperation will make it possible to accelerate its required transformation and to make it a more profitable and efficient leader in logistics for the benefit of its clients, its employees and its shareholders,” said CMA CGM Chairman and Chief Executive Rodolphe Saade.

Additional reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Adrian Croft and David Goodman

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