Investor group wants to preserve Hapag-Lloyd as independent shipping company

M.M. Warburg & Co KGaA, a Hamburg-based bank, said it represents a German investor group that wants talks with TUI AG about its Hapag-Lloyd shipping line.

M.M. Warburg wants to discuss "preserving Hapag-Lloyd as an independent shipping company based in Hamburg," the bank said in an e-mailed statement today.

German billionaire Klaus-Michael Kuehne, the majority shareholder in transport company Kuehne & Nagel International AG, may make an offer for Hapag-Lloyd along with a group of investors from Hamburg.

Martin Wehrle, a spokesman for M.M. Warburg, said the bank is already in contact with TUI, without giving further details about the talks and which investors are participating. TUI spokesman Robin Zimmermann declined to comment.

The German city state of Hamburg wants TUI to merge Hapag with domestic competitor Hamburg Suedamerikanische Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft KG. Hamburg Sued is controlled by Germany's billionaire Oetker family.

TUI AG (Touristik Union International) is a German based company. Until 2001 it was an industrial and transportation company named Preussag AG, which in the mid-1990s decided to reinvent itself as a tourism, shipping, and logistics company. It sold off many of its industrial concerns and purchased several major travel and transportation firms.

Today it is one of the world's largest tourist firms with interests across Europe. It owns travel agents, hotels, airlines, cruise ships, retail stores, and container ships. Major subsidiaries include TUI AG Airlines, the largest holiday fleet in Europe. Its common brand TUIfly encompasses 7 airlines. TUI AG is also one of the world's largest shipping companies, having its logistics activities bundled within Hapag-Lloyd AG and concentrated on the highly profitable shipping sector.

Hapag-Lloyd is a German transportation company comprising a cargo container shipping line, Hapag-Lloyd Container Line, and a cruise line, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. It was formed in 1970 as a merger of two 19th Century companies, Hapag, which dated from 1847, and Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL) or North German Lloyd (NGL), which was formed in 1856. Hapag-Lloyd was acquired in 1998 by TUI AG (Hanover) and became its fully-owned subsidiary in 2002.