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US blocks merger of global container suppliers over market concentration

CIMC takeover of Maersk unit would have combined 2 dominant refrigerated container manufacturers

A stack of Maersk refrigerated ocean containers. The U.S. Justice Department has nixed Maersk's sale of its manufacturing division to Chinese company CIMC. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

China International Marine Containers Group Ltd., the largest manufacturer of steel containers used for ocean shipping, has abandoned its intended acquisition of shipping giant Maersk’s refrigerated container manufacturing business after objections from U.S. competition authorities, the Department of Justice said Thursday. 

A.P. Moller-Maersk agreed in September 2021 to sell Maersk Container Industry A/S and its Qingdao, China, factory to CIMC for $987 million. The divestment is part of Maersk’s strategy to focus on integrated container transport and logistics services. In 2020 the maker of reefer units delivered its most profitable result since beginning 30 years ago.

The proposed transaction would have combined two of the world’s four suppliers of insulated container boxes and refrigerated shipping containers, consolidating control of more than 90% of the market in Chinese state-owned or state-controlled entities, the Justice Department said.

Taicang CIMC Reefer Logistics Equipment Co. is a global supplier of integrated cold chain equipment and solutions. TCRC provides more than 100 kinds of reefer and thermal Insulation products for global customers in more than 50 countries.

“American consumers depend on the global cold supply chain for many of our everyday essentials,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kaner, head of the antitrust division, in a statement. “CIMC’s acquisition of MCI threatened to harm this critical aspect of our economy, leading to higher prices, lower quality and less resiliency in global supply chains. It would have cemented CIMC’s dominant position in an already consolidated industry and eliminated MCI as an innovative, independent competitor. The deal also would have substantially increased the risk of coordination among the remaining suppliers in the marketplace, most of whom would have been aligned through common ownership and related alliances.”

The DOJ said Germany’s Bundeskartellamt, the federal cartel office, cooperated in its investigation of the CIMC-Maersk deal. 

CIMC boasts a market share of about 42% in the container manufacturing sector, according to Drewry. The top three builders are all Chinese.

The Biden administration has adopted a much stronger policy than its predecessor against mergers and acquisitions it believes could harm consumers and don’t maintain a competitive playing field.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In December 2022, he was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]