Maersk sells 10.2% holding in Höegh Autoliners – to buy its own PCTCs?

Maersk sells 10.2% holding in Höegh Autoliners – to buy its own PCTCs?

The Load Star — 2023-11-28

Maritime and Ports

Maersk has sold its 10.2% stake in Höegh Autoliners, at a time when car-carriers are in enormous demand.

The Danish liner giant sold its 20 m shares in the Scandinavian car-carrier company for about NOK90 ($8.44) per share. Höegh’s share price briefly dipped this morning to NOK88.5 before returning to NOK91.3.

There is speculation as to the motive behind the sale, given the continued upward momentum in car-carrier fundamentals.

Perhaps Maersk is seeking to raise cash after a significant downturn in its Q3 results, amounting to a $27m operating loss. As part of its cost-reduction measures, Maersk noted 13,500 job losses in a “very uncertain trading environment, with significant risk of further downside potential”, “further headwinds” and “worsening market conditions”, according to CEO Vincent Clerc.

Though the Danish giant is yet to respond to The Loadstar’s requests for comment, one automotive forwarder speculated that Maersk may intend to order its own ro-ro ships.

“[The] Ro-Ro auto market still [faces] incredibly high demand and rates are very strong indeed… [Maersk] is probably thinking of doing it itself and ordering [its] own vessels. There’s more to it, I suggest.”

Meanwhile, this might be the top of the market for Ro-Ro, being one of the few areas of deepsea shipping where demand is surging above available supply.

Such is the shortfall that automotive shippers have frequently resorted to shipping cars in 20ft and 40ft containers to keep their supply lines open. And a consortia of Chinese carmakers have this year been forming their own Ro-Ro lines and buying scores of ships.

According to Clarksons, charter rates of $110,000 for a 6,500 ceu car carrier have been commonplace this year, matching the containership highs seen during the pandemic. Höegh Autoliners itself sold Höegh Bangkok, a 2007-built 6,500 ceu PCTC, for $63m at the end of October.

Meanwhile, shipowners are frantically ordering Ro- Ro vessels and PCTCs. This month China Merchants Energy Shipping (CMES) ordered eight methanol-fuelled car-carriers from China Merchants Industry for $508m, making them $63.5m each. Hyundai Glovis this month announced its intention to order a dozen 10,800 ceu LNG-fuelled car-carriers from two Chinese shipyards, for a total of $1.84bn, or $153m each.