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Hapag-Lloyd acquiring SAAM terminal operations in $1B deal

1st venture in Americas includes investment in facilities in 6 countries

Through the acquisition of SM SAAM S,A,, Hapag-Lloyd will have stakes in terminals in Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia and the United States. (Photo: Hapag-Lloyd)

Hapag-Lloyd announced Tuesday it is making its first investment in the Americas through the $1 billion acquisition of the SM SAAM S.A. marine terminal and logistics businesses.

The German ocean container shipping company is acquiring all of SAAM’s shares in 10 terminals as well as bonded warehouses and integrated logistics operations for importers and exporters. The Chile-based company will retain its tugboat and airport logistics businesses. 

SAAM operates eight terminals as the majority or joint venture shareholder and is invested in two terminals as the minority shareholder, according to Hapag-Lloyd. The terminals are in Antofagasta, Corral, Iquique, San Antonio and San Vicente, Chile; Cartagena, Colombia; Caldera, Costa Rica; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Mazatlan, Mexico.

“Trade lanes from and to Latin America are expected to further increase in attractiveness, for example due to e-commerce demand from Asia or the export of perishable goods to Asia. With growing import and export growth rates in the region, terminal infrastructure becomes increasingly important,” Tim Seifert, Hapag-Lloyd’s director of corporate communications, told American Shipper.

Hapag-Lloyd, the fifth-largest container shipping company in the world, said SAAM terminals employ about 4,000 people and had a combined container throughput of approximately 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units in 2021. The logistics services complement the operations at the five terminals in Chile and have about 300 employees. 

SAAM, which has been in business for 60 years, will operate as an independent entity, according to Hapag-Lloyd, which said the transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023. 


“This is good news for SAAM, its shareholders, and also for SAAM Ports and SAAM Logistics, as well as for employees and the communities in which SAAM Ports and SAAM Logistics operate, given the experience and financial strength of the new owner,” SAAM CEO Macario Valdes said in a statement posted on the company’s website. 

SAAM said it expected to realize a net profit of $400 million from the sale. Those funds will enable the company to “capitalize on a pipeline of organic and inorganic growth opportunities in the towage and air cargo logistics business divisions. Once the transaction is approved, SAAM will focus on the development of the above operations, which together account for approximately 55% of SAAM’s EBITDA.”  

Just Monday, SAAM Towage announced it was strengthening its presence in Peru by completing the acquisition of Ian Taylor’s towage operations. 

“This agreement [with Hapag-Lloyd] will allow us to continue to boost the towage business, where SAAM Towage is already the third largest player globally thanks to the strategy we have deployed since 2019 with the acquisitions of the entire joint venture with Boskalis, the acquisition of Intertug, Standard Towing and Ian Taylor Peru, and the announcement of the purchase of Starnav’s assets in Brazil. In addition, to strengthen our air cargo logistics strategy, we acquired 50% of Aerosan from American Airlines,” Valdes said.

The acquisition of SAAM is a pivot for Hapag-Lloyd, which had limited its terminal investments to Europe and Africa.   

“Investing in terminal infrastructure is a key element of our strategic agenda, and Latin America is one of our stronghold markets. Acquiring SM SAAM’s terminal operations and complementary logistics services will help us further strengthen our business while building up a robust and attractive terminal portfolio,” Hapag-Lloyd CEO Rolf Habben Jansen said in Tuesday’s announcement.

Hapag-Lloyd announced in mid-September that it was acquiring a 49% stake in Italian logistics company Spinelli Group. Headquartered at the Port of Genoa and with locations throughout Italy, Spinelli Group manages the “logistics chain of containers from the port docks to the final recipient: disembarkation, embarkation, cargo handling and container operations within the port terminals, truck and intermodal transport, warehousing, repair, container trading services and services that cover the entire cycle of assistance for goods, ships, crews and passengers,” according to its website.  

Hapag-Lloyd also has acquired a stake in JadeWeserPort in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, and invested in the construction of a terminal at the Egyptian port of Damietta. In addition, the company has a stake in Container Terminal Altenwerder in Hamburg, Germany, and Terminal TC3 in Tangier, Morocco.

Hapag-Lloyd has made Africa a key target of its growth strategy. In March, Hapag-Lloyd announced it was acquiring Deutsche Afrika-Linien as part of that strategy. Last year Hapag-Lloyd acquired NileDutch to strengthen its presence and service offering to and from West Africa. 

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Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

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Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.