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Tempers flare in Hamburg

Tempers flare in Hamburg
Logistics entrepreneur Klaus-Michael Kühne called for Hapag-Lloyd to be restructured just hours after refusing to participate in the first stage of a refinancing package.

Logistics entrepreneur Klaus-Michael Kühne called for Hapag-Lloyd to be restructured just hours after refusing to participate in the first stage of a refinancing package.

Tempers flared in Hamburg today as logistics entrepreneur Klaus-Michael Kühne called for Hapag-Lloyd to be restructured just hours after refusing to participate in the first stage of a refinancing package that had been agreed late Tuesday.

His remarks were seen as ill-judged and intemperate, given their timing and the sensitivity of negotiations that will continue over the next few weeks.

The rift between Mr Kühne and the rest of the Albert Ballin consortium that owns 56.7% of Hapag-Lloyd emerged as a ?330m ($463m) rescue package for the container line was put together after two days of intense discussion.

Albert Ballin and Tui, with a 43.3% stake, will pay Hapag-Lloyd ?315m for its 25.1% interest in Container-Terminal Altenwerder, the automated state-of-the-art Hamburg facility that opened in 2002.

Hapag-Lloyd paid around $23m for this shareholding that is regarded as of strategic value, given the importance of Hamburg in the line"s service network.

Under the terms of the agreement, Hapag-Lloyd has an option to buy back the terminal interest as soon as economic conditions permit, Tui said.

Of the Albert Ballin consortium members, only the city of Hamburg and insurer Signal Iduna will be participate in the purchase of Altenwerder.

Hamburg will provide ?76m and Signal Iduna ?24m.

But the Kuehne+Nagel chairman, along with insurer Hanse Merkur, and the merchant bank MM Warburg, which were supposed to give ?72m, refused to participate.

Neither will the world"s largest shipping bank, HSH Nordbank, be buying shares in CTA. Instead it has agreed to grant a ?15m loan to Hapag-Lloyd.

Mr Kühne justified his decision by saying that the rescue plan was a pure real estate financing deal and that his Kühne Holding would not engage in such deals.

He also caused upset by calling for greater transparency of Hapag-Lloyd"s finances, with sources close to the line insisting that Mr Kühne has always had full access.

Neither was his demand for greater involvement in the management of Hapag-Lloyd well received.

Mr Kühne founded the Albert Ballin consortium a year ago to prevent the sale of Hapag-Lloyd to a foreign owner, and is its second largest shareholder after the city of Hamburg.

But his public utterances and criticism of Hapag-Lloyd management in recent weeks have angered other consortium members and undermined confidence in the business.

Two banks withdrew their support for a ?750m

That forced two banks to withdraw their support for a ?750m cash injection from shareholders, giving Hapag-Lloyd no choice but to offer its CTA shareholding in exchange for the initial ?330m bail-out.

With Mr Kühne declining to participate, Tui stepped in to fill in the gap left by him and the other defecting shareholders, and so will pay the lion"s share of ?215m for the terminal.

The city of Hamburg"s investment vehicle HVG promised to shoulder ?25m of this in the first quarter of 2011, unless Tui has already been reimbursed by that stage.

However, Hamburg finance senator Michael Freytag stressed that all seven shareholders are needed onboard for the overall rescue.

Signal Iduna will also only take part in the second stage of the rescue if all the other shareholders participate this time, according to sources in the insurer"s management.

In total, Hapag-Lloyd is seeking ?1.8bn of which ?1bn is expected to come in the form of government guarantees. The rest must be provided by the shareholders.

Following this week"s progress, shareholders have to reach a decision over the coming weeks on the next ?400m tranche that Hapag-Lloyd requires before approaching Berlin for further assistance.

Mr Kühne said that his refusal to participate in the CTA purchase did not constitute a preliminary decision about long-term aid.

He also indicated that a merger with a bigger partner from Europe or Asia could not be ruled out.

Hanse Merkur and MM Warburg refused to comment but hinted that they did not want to increase their shares in Hapag-Lloyd any further.

www.TurkishMaritime.com.tr

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