BEIJING — China's biggest shipping company, state-owned COSCO Shipping Holdings Co., is creating the world's No. 3 container shipping giant by acquiring rival Orient Overseas (International) Ltd.
Shares in the companies surged Monday following the announcement of the $6.3 billion deal.
Both lines serve the Port of Charleston.
A wave of consolidation has created huge competitors in a global shipping industry that is struggling with sluggish trade and depressed prices.
“COSCO is buying one of the best companies in our industry – OOCL is known for quality of service and customer focus," said Jim Newsome, CEO of the S.C. State Ports Authority. "Consolidation in our industry is both predictable and inevitable, and it’s important that the industry reach an equilibrium that allows carriers to increase their earnings to invest.”
The two lines are part of the Ocean Alliance, a coalition formed by ship owners to share vessels and reduce costs. That group is bringing the largest cargo ships to Charleston.
The biggest to visit the port to date is the 1,202-foot OOCL France, which can a carry almost 14,000 containers. Its first local call was in early June.
COSCO ranks No. 4 globally with 317 ships and 8.4 percent of container traffic, according to Alphaline, an industry database. Adding Orient Overseas would give it a marketshare of 11.7 percent, moving it ahead of Marseilles, France-based CMA CGM Group.
The No. 1 shipper is Denmark's Maersk Line, ith 643 ships and 16.4 percent of container traffic, followed by Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Co.
Orient Overseas, with 103 ships, is controlled by the family of former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-Hwa.
The transaction is subject to antitrust review by Chinese, European and U.S. authorities, according to a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
The filing said COSCO will pay $10.07 per share, a premium of 38 percent over Orient's Friday share price on the Hong Kong Exchange. The total price tag for the deal will be $6.3 billion.
Maersk Line, part of AP Moeller-Maersk, acquired Hamburg Sud of Germany in December. CMA CGM bought Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines last year.
Orient Overseas reported a loss of $219.2 million last year. It blamed a glut of capacity, slow growth and rising fuel prices as well as freight rates that sometimes dipped below those seen in 2009 during the financial crisis.