Container liner shipping merger between CMA CGM and NOL: clearance by the Commission subject to conditions

The European Commission has cleared, subject to conditions, the proposed acquisition of Neptune Oriental Lines (‘NOL’) of Singapore by rival CMA CGM, a French shipping company with worldwide activities. In examining the effects of the merger between such competitors on the market of container liner shipping services, the Commission found that the merger, as initially notified, would have created new links between previously unconnected consortia of shipping companies, namely the O3 and G6 alliances. Indeed, it is worth mentioning that CMA CGM is a founding member of the Ocean Three Alliance (“O3”) whereas NOL is currently a member of the G6 Alliance.

In Commission’s view, the transaction could have enabled the merged entity, through the consortia that the two companies belong to, to influence capacity and therefore prices to the detriment of shippers and consumers on two trade routes between Northern Europe and North America, and between Northern Europe and the Middle East.

In order to address these concerns, the companies offered to make the transaction contingent upon the removal of the link that would have been created between O3 Alliance and G6 Alliance. In other words, CMA CGM committed to remove NOL from the G6 alliance.