Consolidation in shipping to rise in 2011 -survey


Acquisitions and joint ventures in the shipping sector are set to pick up next year as prospects improve for seaborne trade and optimism among freight players grows, a survey shows. The poll by law firm Norton Rose of 679 international transport companies, financiers and others also found the aviation sector was seen as experiencing the strongest recovery from global recession compared with other transport sectors.

The survey, which polled 177 participants from the shipping industry, said 60 percent were planning joint ventures and 58 percent looking at strategic acquisitions in the next 12 months. “Last year there was a muted reaction towards any suggestion of growth or expansion,” said Harry Theochari, global head of transport at Norton Rose.
“Now, we’re seeing a lot more appetite for joint ventures and even acquisitions. That’s not to say that we’ll wake up tomorrow to dozens of corporate tie-ups, but the door is certainly more open to corporate activity from shipping companies.” Global turmoil in 2008 battered seaborne trade.

Norton Rose said 17 percent of respondents believed recovery in the sector was already happening, compared with 9 percent in the law firm’s first transport survey last year. A further 14 percent said they expected recovery to happen in the next year. While China’s demand for commodities has continued to drive freight market activity, the shipping sector has yet to recover to pre-crisis levels, compounded by the growing pace of fleet growth especially in the dry bulk, container and tanker sectors.

Norton Rose said China was identified as a key area of investment by shipping companies more than by their counterparts in the rail and aviation sectors. The survey found 68 percent of those polled from shipping expected passenger numbers and freight volumes to increase in the next year.
“Shipping has seen a strong recovery over the last year, driven in large part by significant regional trends,” Theochari said. “Demand from China, as well as Asia Pacific more generally, has helped inject an optimism into the market that was lacking this time last year.” For the airline industry, the global economic recession led to its worst downturn in history, forcing airlines to cut capacity and lay off staff.

Of 209 aviation participants in the survey, 21 percent said recovery was already happening in the sector, 47 percent expected their routes and services to increase in the next year and 58 percent were actively considering joint ventures. “The fact that so many are considering joint ventures in the coming year suggests an increasingly active sector and a more positive outlook,” said Neil Poland, global head of aviation at Norton Rose.