Thursday, September 11, 2008

NOL ahead in race for Hapag Lloyd deal - papers

FRANKFURT, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines (NEPS.SI: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) leads the race to acquire TUI's (TUIGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) container shipping unit, Hapag-Lloyd, ahead of a group of Hamburg-based investors, German newspapers reported on Thursday.

NOL would be able to pay clearly more than the Hamburg group thanks to possible synergies which the group of investors would not be able to realise, German dailies Handelsblatt and Sueddeutsche Zeitung said without citing sources.

The strengthening of the dollar against the euro also played into the hands of NOL. Handelsblatt said the advantage would add up to some $300 million.

The Hamburg consortium had not yet fully set up the financing for the deal, Handelsblatt added, citing financial sources. No one at the consortium was immediately available for comment.

The German travel and shipping group TUI bowed to shareholder pressure earlier this year and agreed to look into the sale of the world's No.5 container shipping group.

Analysts predicted then that Hapag-Lloyd could fetch up to 4-5 billion euros ($5.66-$7.08 billion) in a sale, but with slower growth in freight rates on the horizon, such a price might not be feasible.

Binding offers for Hapag-Lloyd are expected by the end of the month. (Reporting by Eva Kuehnen; Editing by Louise Ireland)