COSCO offers 700m euros for Greece’s Piraeus Port, WSJ says

Updated: 2016-01-14 18:10

By Zhong Nan in Beijing(China Daily Europe)

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COSCO offers 700m euros for Greece’s Piraeus Port, WSJ says

Greece's largest port, Piraeus, near Athens. Angelos Tzortzinis / Agence France-Presse

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

China COSCO Holdings Co, a subsidiary of COSCO Shipping submitted a formal tender offer to 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 Authority in June 2014, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

A spokesperson for the Greek fund handling the sale wouldn't comment as the process was continuing.

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 authority within one week time, after another two shipping rivals withdrew from the race. COSACO already operates two piers at Piraeus Port.

Eager to enhance their earning ability and compete with foreign rivals, China Ocean Shipping Group Co and China Shipping Group Co on Jan 2004 announced their merger and new management team, the COSCO-CSC Conglomerate now is the world's fourth biggest container line, with 8 percent of global container freight capacity, as well as a large number of port, shipyard, logistics assets.

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

"With global trade declined, the shipping industry would 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, manufacturing 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 COSCO Shipping would win, because there has been a notable change in the Greek government's attitude.

The deal would bring the Chinese company more profit through its port management activities, which would be welcome at a time when bulk cargo rates remain sluggish globally.

"COSCO Shipping's investment in Piraeus Port also meets China's demand to develop Belt and Road Initiative," said Dong. "It would reach China's goal of building Piraeus Port into a bigger port of call for the China-Europe shipping route."

The initiative, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, includes the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and covers about 4.4 billion people in more than 60 countries and regions.

Maria Petrakis in Athens contributed to this article.