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Maersk may pursue DB Schenker

Maersk Line might become a suitor for Deutsche Bahn’s logistics subsidiary DB Schenker after an initial lack of interest.

The Danish liner giant’s CEO Vincent Clerc said in an earnings call on 8 February that the sale of DB Schenker is something that needs to be looked into, although it is “definitely not a do or die”.

Clerc was speaking during Maersk’s 2023 results briefing, which showed revenue and net profit sharply down, by 37% and 87%, to US$51.07 billion, and US$3.91 billion, as the container freight market corrected from Covid-19 highs. In 4Q 2023 alone, the group incurred a US$456 million net loss.

Clerc said: “Our strategy is very clear, we need to diversify our revenue streams and our earning streams towards the more stable and less volatile part of the supply chain, which is pretty much anything outside ocean/2PL.

“In that respect, having something like a Schenker coming on the market is definitely something that Maersk cannot simply say we are not even going to look at. When a deal like this happens, it’ll have a consequence whether we do the deal or do not do the deal because it’ll change the landscape in logistics, depending on who does the deal. There is also a fundamental price issue and whether we could see a synergies case that is compelling.”

Maersk had been focused on its integrator strategy, buying several 3PL companies, including LF Logistics in 2022, although on a lower scale than its competitors Mediterranean Shipping Company and CMA CGM.

Clerc continued: “I think it’s one of the key rationale elements for why we have done M&A so far and it is a key element behind why we will need to do more M&A in the future in order to do this because developing those capabilities organically is simply going to take too long.”

CMA CGM, which acquired CEVA Logistics in 2019, has proven that a mainline operator can operate in tandem with a 3PL, said Clerc.

Clerc noted: “And then on the freight forwarding side, I think one of the things that has changed is the resilience of the earnings on the other side of Covid, which you can see when you look at both Schenker and some of its competitors.”

On 19 December 2023, Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway company, put DB Schenker up for sale, saying it wanted to focus on its core business, with more growth for rail transport in Germany.

Selling DB Schenker could fetch EUR20 billion (US$21.6 billion), all of which will go to Deutsche Bahn, which plans to use the proceeds to repay debt and expand its rail operations.

During the earnings call, Maersk also disclosed that it will demerge its towage subsidiary Svitzer, explaining that it is in the latter’s best interests to be a standalone entity.

Martina Li
Asia Correspondent

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