Business / Companies

COSCO the sole bidder for Piraeus Port stake in Greece

By ZHONG NAN/CHRIS PETERSON (China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-15 08:18

China COSCO Shipping Group Co, the country's newly combined and largest shipping company by capacity, has offered 700 million euros ($762 million) and become the sole bidder for a majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority SA, the largest port in Greece after waiting for nearly 18 months.

China COSCO Holdings Co, a subsidiary of COSCO Shipping, submitted a formal tender offer to the Greek government earlier this week. COSCO Shipping was one of five industry players, including the Dutch and the US container terminal operators APM Terminals and Ports America Inc, to show an interest in a 67 percent stake in Piraeus Port in June 2014, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Under the proposed deal, COSCO Shipping will invest another 350 million euros once the deal is sealed within five years to improve and upgrade infrastructure facilities in Piraeus Port.

COSCO Shipping was the only chosen bidder to receive the notice from the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, a privatization agency owned by the Greek government, to deliver its tender offer to Greek authorities within a week, after another two shipping rivals withdrew from the race after a prolonged waiting period.

A spokesperson for the Greek fund handling the sale did not comment as the process is continuing. COSCO Shipping did not make any comment neither on Thursday.

Eager to enhance their earning ability and compete with foreign rivals, China Ocean Shipping Group Co and China Shipping Group Co announced their merger and new management team earlier this month. The COSCO-CSC conglomerate is the world's fourth-biggest container line, with 8 percent of global container freight capacity.

Chen Yingming, executive vice-president of Shanghai-based China Ports and Harbors Association, said even though it took a long time for the Greek government to choose the "best buyer" to stimulate its regional economy and local employment, it is worth waiting to invest in the port business, as asset values have fallen sharply under the current industrial climate.

"With global trade falling, the shipping industry will continue to face tough times because of stiff competition among international shipping giants. Strategies such as forming alliances and offering lower shipping rates will affect the profitability of the sector in the long run," said Chen.

Because the Mediterranean is a key European entry point for Chinese products such as clothing, machineries, household appliances, vehicle parts and industrial yarn, as well as automobiles from Japan and South Korea, Chen said Piraeus Port has more potential to attract international shipping companies to set their regional transit centers and service branches.

Dong Liwan, a shipping industry professor at Shanghai Maritime University, said it is highly probable for COSCO Shipping to win the bid, because there has been a notable change in the Greek government's attitude. A winning bid would bring the Chinese company more profits through its port management activities, which would be welcome at a time when bulk cargo rates remain sluggish globally.

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