German Government Resolves Internal Conflict on Sale of Port Stake to China

German officials are nearing an agreement on the contentious sale of a share in a Hamburg container terminal to China’s state-owned Cosco Shipping Holdings Co.

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German Government Resolves Internal Conflict on Sale of Port Stake to China

According to a government official who declined to be named because the negotiations are private, Olaf Scholz, the chancellor, and his ministers, many of whom were against the purchase, may come to an agreement to sell Cosco at a reduced 24.9per cent interest. The share comes close to what Germany would classify as a blocking minority.

Scholz, who had initially backed the sale of 35per cent of one of the four-port terminals by Hamburg Hafen and Logistik AG, would be able to save face with the agreement. Oct. 26 would have been the day that the accord would have automatically passed without a Cabinet discussion.

After six members of his Cabinet, including the ministers for the economy, foreign affairs, finance, transport, and defence, expressed their opposition, the chancellor decided to settle for a lower deal that would give the Chinese state-owned businesses less control.

According to the official, selling 24.9per cent would at best be a last-resort measure to avoid a worse outcome than with China’s voting rights.

Verena Hubertz, deputy chairwoman of the parliamentary group of Scholz’s Social Democrats, said the suggested solution “takes account of the reasonable worries about the Cosco investment.” This guarantees that the Chinese corporation won’t be able to sway HHLA’s strategic choices.

Because the proposal would partially forbid the sale, the Cabinet would need to approve it on October 26.

In order to meet with President Xi Jinping, Scholz, the mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018, will fly to Beijing on November 4. According to two people with knowledge of the situation, his backing for the Hamburg agreement was also motivated by worries that if it fails, the Chinese may look at other harbours. Cosco already has ownership interests in ports in European locations, including Rotterdam and Antwerp.

On the list of the top 50 international freight carriers compiled by Transport Topics, Cosco Shipping comes in at number seven.

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