LONDON Feb 14 The world's no. 2 container line
Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is in talks to acquire a
stake in smaller Italian counterpart Messina, the
Swiss-headquartered group said, in another sign of consolidation
in the sector.
Container lines are battling their worst ever downturn due
to a glut of ships and weaker demand - prompting rivals to form
vessel-sharing arrangements or pursue other measures including
mergers and acquisitions.
Privately owned MSC said it had held a meeting on Friday in
Genoa with Messina and senior management from lender Banca
"The aim of the meeting was the possibility of an entry by
MSC Group into the shareholding of the Genoa-based group," MSC
said in an emailed statement sent on Tuesday.
"MSC Group and Gruppo Messina, thanks to the availability
shown by Banca Carige, will continue their dialogue with the
objective to reach an agreement between them."
A source familiar with the matter said Banca Carige was
Messina's key lender and also a major financier for Genoa-based
Earlier this week, Genoa-based Carige reported a 297 million
euro ($313.90 million) loss for 2016, hit by loan writedowns.
The bank set aside 470 million euros in cash against loan
losses, 47 percent more than the previous year, due in part to
the outcome of an on-site inspection the European Central Bank
carried out in the first half of 2016.
Founded in 1921, Messina has a small fleet of specialised
ro-ro container ships, the company's website showed. MSC has
close to a 14 percent global market share, according to data
from leading consultancy Alphaliner.
The world's number one player Maersk announced
in December it would buy German rival Hamburg Süd. This followed
other sector deals including a proposed merger between German
container shipping line Hapag-Lloyd and United Arab
A unit of MSC said this month it had bought a stake in U.S.
ports operator Total Terminals International from collapsed
South Korean line Hanjin.
($1 = 0.9462 euros)
(Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Adrian Croft)