Exclusive: China Merchants Group joins race to buy Baltic Exchange - sources

Wed Mar 16, 2016 11:47am EDT
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By Jonathan Saul

LONDON (Reuters) - State-run conglomerate China Merchants Group [CNMGP.UL] has made an informal bid to buy London's Baltic Exchange, becoming the latest contender for the business that has been the hub of the global shipping market for centuries, two sources told Reuters.

The approach was made by the group's subsidiary China Merchants Securities (600999.SS: Quote), according to the sources, who declined to be identified as the matter is not public. "They are the latest (suitor) and certainly, with such a massive group, it shows how this is heating up," one source said.

An acquisition of the Baltic, which was founded in 1744, would give the Chinese conglomerate ownership of the industry's benchmark indices - which could be further commercialized - and greater access to the multi-billion dollar freight derivatives market.

It is the latest Chinese company to look at shipping and commodities targets in Europe, aiming to take advantage of a market downturn that has pushed down valuations of some firms.

China Merchants Securities, which is listed in Shanghai (600999.SS: Quote), did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

A spokesman for China Merchants Group in the Chinese city of Shenzhen said on Wednesday he was not aware of any bid for the Baltic Exchange, adding if there was a bid it would be processed by one of the group's units, which are listed in various locations such as Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

A Baltic spokesman said the exchange "to date hasn't commented on the identity of anyone involved in the process and declines to comment on whether or not the Baltic is in discussion with CMG (China Merchants Group)".

On Feb. 26 the privately held Baltic Exchange confirmed it had received a number of "exploratory approaches" after the Singapore Exchange Ltd (SGX) (SGXL.SI: Quote) revealed it was seeking to buy the business.   Continued...

A wooden plaque is seen on a wall at The Baltic Exchange in the City of London, Britain March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville