Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hamburg Süd expected to be sold

Hamburg Sud has been owned by The Oetker Group since 1936.    The German government has been very supportive of the shipping industry, offering important tax advantages which has made Hamburg Sud important to The Oetker Group portfolio.

I do not know if these tax advantages have diminished, or if it is the overall sorry state of the outlook for the shipping industry which has finally caused The Oetker Group to decide to sell this business.  I suspect it's that the tax advantages no longer outweigh the poor economic outlook for this industry, and Oetker has decided to not wait out the supposed return to viable profitability.     Also, I believe the Chairman has reached maximum retirement age, so it would be a good time to sell.  No CEO likes to see their job eliminated.

Profitability will only be restored in the shipping industry if there is consolidation, which will be a way to decrease/control capacity.    After the extreme downturn in 2008 (after the massive demand in the years just prior),  all of those folks running shipping companies said "now is the time to buy new ships...the cost is low and the industry will turn around in a few years".   So, they bought and bought, and ordered and ordered, and yet the demand did not nearly match the supply.  

Companies started scrapping ships, only to see their competitors add capacity and cut rates.   The larger companies tried to convince the others to reduce capacity, go into joint ventures sharing ships, and all those things one does in this industry to reduce capacity in the hope they can increase rates.   It didn't work, and finally in the last several months carriers are going bankrupt, (witness Hanjin),  merging (the 3 Japanese lines, Nippon Yusen KK, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. agreed in Oct 2016 to merge), or be sold.   

The shipping industry has not taken advantage of the efficiences which could be achieved by adapting new computer technology for booking, pricing, documentation, tracking, etc.   Why isn't there an app for that?

The ocean carriers became wholesalers of their transport services many years ago, turning over way too much of the control to the forwarders, consolidators, NVOCC's, whatever you want to call them.    Sure, it's much easier to accept a fully loaded container called "Freight All Kinds" than it is to do the hard work of loading, pricing, each individual small shipment, but that is where they failed.

I haven't posted for a year because honestly, I got tired of hearing myself always complain about the bad decisions made by those running these companies.   The consolidation which I have been saying for years has begun to occur.

Now let's see if anyone in the industry can get smart and improve their computer systems and regain the profitable cargo.

The comments expressed here are my own.

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