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Maersk to divest Russian terminals stake

Invasion of Ukraine and operational challenges drive Maersk out of Global Ports

Maersk has followed the footsteps of a large number of western companies and pulled out of its joint venture with a Russian terminals operator. It is unlikely to make any return on its investment

MAERSK has taken the anticipated step of divesting its investment in Russian terminals operator Global Ports.

“AP Moller-Maersk, through APM Terminals, own a minority stake (30.75%) of Global Ports Investments,” it said in a statement. “We have today informed our joint venture partners and GPI, that we wish to take steps to divest our shares following the invasion of Ukraine and the operational challenges.”

Despite being a minority shareholder, Maersk is joint largest shareholder alongside Russian logistics company Delos.

A statement on Global Ports’ website said APM Terminals would continue to be represented on the board of directors and “fulfil its obligations towards the company” until the divestment had been completed.

Global Ports operates six terminals in Russia, including in St Petersburg, and two in Finland. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange, but trading in its shares has been halted by the LSE.

The move follows similar action taken by a number of large companies, including oil majors Shell and BP, to break out of joint venture arrangements in Russia.

How Maersk will exit the company remains to be seen. It would appear that the only option available to it would be a sale of its stake to Delos or another Russian company, as it is highly unlikely a non-Russian operator would seek to invest at this time.

But even this is fraught with difficulty, as financial transactions with Russia are increasingly difficult.

“By all accounts, certain retaliatory measures to western sanctions have been introduced by Russia with a view to preventing Russian residents, which we are led to believe includes corporate entities, from crediting accounts in banks outside the country with currency,” Reed Smith partner James Willn told Lloyd’s List. “Transfer of funds without opening a bank account using electronic means of payment provided by foreign suppliers of payments services will also be banned, according to the decree.

“As of now, it would seem that any monies due to foreign JV parties from Russian entities cannot be credited abroad if the monies in question are in Russian banks.”

He added that there were suggestions from the Kremlin that a draft decree is being debated that would temporarily bar foreign investors from exiting their Russian assets full stop, though this has yet to be published.

It is possible that Maersk will simply surrender its shares back to the company and write off the loss. It has already stopped taking any bookings for container transport to or from Russia, including food, medicine and humanitarian goods, and has ceased rail transport via Russia from China.

Maersk acquired its stake in Global Ports in 2012 and initially had high hopes ;for the group’s terminals. But volumes were initially hit following the introduction of sanctions after Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, and the company has never paid a dividend.

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