Shippers should anticipate a “pivot” in M&A activity this year

Ocean carrier sector stabilizes as analysts now watch freight intermediaries battle for market share

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Mergers and acquisitions activities for ocean cargo carriers are likely to slow down in 2018, say industry analyts, as trend is likely to “pivot” to freight forwarders.

According to SeaIntelligence Consulting’s CEO, Lars Jensen, the limited number of supercarriers left make any further major consolidation efforts unlikely.

“We’re now down to only seven supercarriers,” he says. “I don’t think anything is going to happen up there anymore. There might be some that want to merge, but I’m not sure that the competition authorities are going to allow it,” he adds.

Jensen feels that over the long term, Hyundai and Yang Ming are not going to be viable in their present states.

“They’re too large to become niche carriers and too small to become super carriers. They will transform or disappear in some way, shape, or form,” he says. “Yang Ming is likely to be absorbed into Evergreen, even though Evergreen hates the idea. Hyundai will persist as long as the Korean government wants to subsidize them…and eventually, they might tire of that.”

Jensen says that the shift may be moving down the line to the smaller carriers, where hundreds of small and medium sized carriers will be starting to stir and probably where the consolidation game will ramp up over the coming years.

“The capacity operated by these carriers have skyrocketed,” he says. “And it’s not because they were operating more ships. It’s because they were redelivering smaller charter vessels and taking larger ones on. There’s no way they can all fill the ships that way. So there will be a consolidation with these small and medium sized carriers.”

Meanwhile, Online freight forwarder iContainers notes that Amid a prolonged market downturn, many carriers resorted to forming alliances and setting agreements on slot purchases. These allowed them to gain cost-effectiveness by combining their resources without risking further debt. Such movements have had its effects trickle down to shippers.

Klaus Lysdal, Vice President of Sales & Operations at iContainers, says “the good thing that has come out of all of this is some very much-needed rate increases to make the industry healthier overall.”

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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