The new majority owner of German container line Hapag-Lloyd, the Albert Ballin consortium, has entered into a massive internal row over the purchase price.
The new majority owner of German container line Hapag-Lloyd, the Albert Ballin consortium, has entered into a massive internal row over the purchase price and the extent of cuts necessary to survive the financial crisis.
The argument is being fought out in public interviews and statements.
Klaus-Michael Kühne, the second largest shareholder of Albert Ballin, openly criticised the other members for not having reacted to his call for cuts at Hapag-Lloyd. Mr Kühne said that the purchase price for Hapag-Lloyd had been too high and that chances to renegotiate a lower price with Tui had not been taken up.
Hapag-Lloyd was valued at ?4.45bn ($5.9bn) in the deal. Tui remains the largest single shareholder with a stake of 43.3%, 10% more than initially planned, to aid the consortium and especially Mr Kühne who now owns just 15% instead of 25%.
Mr Kühne"s calls for extensive cuts at Hapag-Lloyd including redundancies contrasted sharply with promises that no jobs will be lost made by Hapag-Lloyd chief executive Michael Behrendt.
The consortium had won control over Hapag-Lloyd against Singapore"s NOL.
Albert Ballin managing director Christoph Greiner has reprimanded Mr Kühne for his public criticism, stressing that all decisions leading to the acquisition of Hapag-Lloyd had been made unanimously and after extensive information concerning the valuation of the company.
Mr Greiner warned Mr Kühne to be more cautious with public comments about Hapag-Lloyd. Albert Ballin shareholders are in the processes of forming and discussing their opinions on the matter at the shareholders" meeting, he said, and referred to the discretion clause which is part of the shareholders" agreement.
Mr Kühne also attacked Hapag-Lloyd"s management led by Mr Behrendt. He claimed management had so far failed to communicate reliable figures on the effects of the economic crisis on Hapag-Lloyd.
In his statement, Mr Greiner underlined that the reporting by Hapag-Lloyd"s management board was in compliance with the law and rules of corporate governance. He added that the members of the consortium are represented on the board according to their stake.
The new supervisory board, which was elected this week, is dominated by Tui representatives. Tui chief executive Michael Frenzel, chief financial officer Rainer Feuerhake, board member Horst Baier and deputy chairman of Tui"s supervisory board, Jürgen Krumnow, will become representatives for the tourism group.
Other members of the board include Karl Gernandt for Mr Kühne, Christian Olearius of MM Warburg bank, Ulrich Leitermann from insurer Signal Iduna and Peter Rieck, member of the management board of ship finance giant HSH Nordbank.