MSC in Discussions to Buy Cruise Port Operator Global Ports


Global Ports Holding, an operator primarily of cruise ports around the world as well as some container terminals, confirmed media reports that it has been approached for takeover discussions by a division of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company. The company said that its primary shareholder, a company controlled by Turkish businessman Mehmet Kutman, is in discussions with MSC.

In a regulatory filing in London, the company reported they are exploring a potential cash offer for all of its shares. The value of the beleaguered company’s shares jumped nearly 20 percent based on the rumors prior to the regulatory filing. Kutman owns 62 percent of the shares outstanding in Global Ports.

Founded in 2004, the company today promotes itself as the world’s largest cruise port operator. They currently have agreements for 26 ports in 14 countries ranging from the Mediterranean where they have a 29 percent market share, to Northern Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia. In 2022, they signed concessions for the port operations in Tarragona, Spain and Crotone, Italy as they work to rebound from the impact of the pandemic which caused strong declines in cruise and ferry passenger volumes. The company recently said it had returned to profitability after a two-year downturn.

Global Ports created a unique market position focusing on cruise ports, and positioning itself as the world’s leading cruise port brand, with an integrated network of cruise ports serving cruise ships, ferries, yachts, and mega-yachts. The company reports handling 1.5 million passengers annually with over 5,400 port calls.

“These deliberations are at a preliminary stage and no decisions with respect to an offer have been made,” the company wrote in the filing. “There can be no certainty that an offer might ultimately be made for the company nor as to the terms on which any offer might be made.”

Under the rules, MSC now has till July 13 to “either announce a firm intention to make an offer,” or the company can announce that they do not intend to make an offer for GPH. The deadline, however, could be extended with the consent of the takeover panel.

In addition to being the world’s largest container shipping line, MSC also operates a growing international cruise brand that is becoming one of the largest in the world. The controlling family of MSC recently also agreed to make a significant financial investment in the financially troubled Italian ferry operator Moby Lines. It was part of a restructuring of the company’s debt from the acquisition of another ferry operator Tirrenia di Navigazione nearly a decade ago.

MSC has also been seeking to grow the logistics portion of its business. In April, MSC agreed to acquire the logistics operations of Bolloré Group, which operates in 47 African countries with 16 container terminals. MSC beat out other major shipping companies to acquire the assets of Bolloré in a deal valued at $6.4 billion. MSC reported it would strengthen its commitment to Africa and expand access for the continent in the global markets.

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