COSCO Shipping Ports buys majority stake in Spanish terminal operator

Hong Kong-listed COSCO Shipping Ports acquired a majority stake in the Spanish container and rail terminal operator Noatum Ports for USD228 million.

COSCO Shipping Ports is taking a 51% stake in the company that operates container terminals in Valencia and Bilbao, as well as the Conterail dry port in Madrid and Noatum Rail Terminal in Zaragoza. The deal is subject to approval by shareholders.

The transaction excludes Noatum Maritime, the port services arm of the Spanish group that operates multipurpose, ro-ro, and bulk terminals throughput the Iberian Peninsula.

“The new partnership enhances our capacity to increase cargo volumes and reinforces the ports of Valencia and Bilbao, as well as improving service levels to customers,” said Douglas Schultz, CEO of Noatum Ports and Maritime.

The two container terminals and two dry ports in the transaction would continue to offer their infrastructure and services to all shipping companies calling at the ports of Bilbao and Valencia in accordance with concession terms and contract commitments, Noatum said in a statement.

COSCO Shipping also signed an agreement with the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA), in which the Chinese company holds a majority stake, and the Shanghai International Port Group to strengthen the role of Piraeus port as a China-Europe cargo handling hub. The agreement covers co-operation on boosting shipments between the two ports and co-operation in areas such as staff training and technical assistance.

"The agreement with the port of Shanghai is very important. It means that through Piraeus huge quantities of goods will be transported from China to the rest of the world," said Greece’s Deputy Economy and Development Minister, Stergios Pitsiorlas.

COSCO Shipping subsidiary Piraeus Container Terminal has been operating Piers II and III at Piraeus port under a 35-year concession agreement since 2010. In 2016, COSCO acquired 67% of the shares of PPA, and stated its commitment to turn the port into a key Belt and Road hub at the crossroads of Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Throughput at the facility expanded by 14.4% in 2016 to 3.5 million teu.

COSCO Shipping is a key instrument in plans by the government of China to develop transportation, trade, and resource interests overseas through its Belt and Road programme. It was announced in January that through an agreement with China Development Bank, COSCO Shipping would have access to USD26 billion in financial firepower to make investments that support Belt and Road over the next five years.

In May, COSCO Shipping said it was acquiring a 24.5% stake in a dry port located just 15 km from the Khorgos-East Gate special economic zone in Kazakhstan. The Chinese company is teaming up with Kazakhstan's national railway company and Jiangsu Lianyungang Port Co for the development, which will serve as a hub for rail cargo shipments between China and Europe.

The dry port is located in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on the border of China and Kazakhstan. Cargo can reach Europe from the facility by rail in about 10 days and can reach Lianyungang in east China's Jiangsu province in five days.

Contact Turloch Mooney at and follow him on Twitter: @TurlochMooney

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