Gnanalingam open to client investors in Westports terminals

By Rizza Sta. Ana

Nov 29, 2013 05:33 AM EST

According to Malaysian billionaire G. Gnanalingam, he is open on the possibility of clients of his shipping line business to invest in Westports Holdings Bhd's terminals in order to keep the business operating while it undergo port capacity expansion.

The Westports founder and Chairman in a Kuala Lumpur interview yesterday, "We won't sell equity in the port but will welcome joint-venture terminals. The advantage is that the customer will stay."

Gnanalingam cleared though that it has yet to engage in negotiations with potential investors.

Gnanalingam added that his company operates six container terminals at Port Klang. Moreover, he said the company has planned to invest around MYR2 billion or USD619 million in order to built three more ports to double the current port capacity. Due to Gnanalingam's statements, Bloomberg said in its report that investors are concerned that a potential alliance among the three biggest container shipping lines in the world could reduce port calls.

In June, Westports' biggest customer CMA CGM SA had joined with the two others, A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S and Mediterranean Shipping Co, in an agreement to allow sharing of vessels for operational purposes in order to reduce costs and end overcapacity that had been raging on for five years. Bloomberg noted in its report that the overcapacity had led to depressed freight rates. According to an HSBC Holdings Plc report dated November 22, the ports of Hong Kong, Port Klang and Rotterdam would suffer the most in port calls once the alliance known as the P3 Network will reduce its trips.

Hong Kong-based money manager Alan Richardson at Samsung Asset Management said, "The P3 alliance is concerning and the company will need to show in the second half of 2014 that there has been little impact to operations."

The P3 alliance was still subject to regulatory approval, but is seeking to start its operations next year in the second quarter. Malaysia's Port Klan serves container traffic along the Straits of Malacca, making it one of the main hubs as it links Asia with the Middle East and Europe. Westports said in its share sale document that Port Klang ranked number 12 in the busiest ports in terms of container volume.

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