Financing hitches delays Kuwait’s UASC, Hapag Lloyd shipping tie-up

LONDON/FRANKFURT: A merger of German container shipping line Hapag-Lloyd and United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) is likely to take months to complete, partly due to financing issues blamed on a deep industry downturn, sources familiar with the deal say.
Hapag-Lloyd signed a binding agreement with UASC in July to form the world’s fifth-largest line, valued at about 7 to 8 billion euros ($7.2-$8.3 billion), by the end of 2016.
But three sources said that timeline is being held up, partly because some banks want to pull out of loans, particularly to UASC, due to the sector crisis.
One source said the sum totalled at least $500 million and could be as much as $900 million.
Global container shipping is suffering its worst downturn caused by a faltering global economy and too many ships. The slump has prompted a series of mergers and alliances aimed at saving costs and pooling ships and routes.
Two of the sources said the syndicate banks required a cash injection from UASC shareholders.
Kuwait-headquartered UASC declined to comment when contacted. The sources said Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, could step in to cover the financing gap via a loan.
One source said this could potentially be provided by Qatar National Bank (QNB).
Hapag-Lloyd said in a statement: “We are in the middle of getting all necessary approvals for our merger from the lending banks of the companies. This is a normal process before one can close such a transaction.”— Reuters