CMA CGM says most key execs will stay to help steer NOL

CMA CGM vice-chairman Rodolphe Saade says the primary objective is to stop NOL's losses.
CMA CGM vice-chairman Rodolphe Saade says the primary objective is to stop NOL's losses.ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

Shipping giant names new CEO and CFO of S'pore firm

Shipping firm CMA CGM will focus on turning the loss-making Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) around as it begins integrating the newly acquired Singapore firm into its fold.

The process has begun in earnest with the French maritime giant cementing its hold with two key appointments yesterday, but most of NOL's senior figures - including former chief executive Ng Yat Chung and former chairman Kwa Chong Seng - will stay with the firm.

CMA CGM senior vice-president Nicolas Sartini has replaced Mr Ng as the new CEO, and finance vice-president Serge Corbel has become NOL's chief financial officer.

Both sides will work to improve cost efficiency and bring NOL into its global network, said CMA CGM vice-chairman Rodolphe Saade.

"While a few have resigned, most of NOL's senior figures have chosen to stay - I hope for the long run. In order for this firm to succeed, we need both teams to work together and grow the business," he told The Straits Times yesterday.

Mr Ng, who will be executive director and special advisor, was invited "to stay as long as he wishes", Mr Saade said. "We appreciate his expertise and knowledge of the company, and we look forward to him helping us speed up the integration of NOL."

Mr Kwa, whose chairman post will go to Mr Saade, will stay as an independent director. Others, like chief operating officer Jason Wong and chief trade officer Calvin Leong, will stay in their current positions.

But Mr Saade stopped short of promising that there will not be any job cuts beneath the top levels.

Mr Saade, son of CMA CGM founder Jacques Saade, was in Singapore for his first meeting with NOL's board of directors to lay out the priorities for the company. "The integration process starts today and our primary objective is to stop (NOL's) losses. I understand and appreciate the fact that the market is difficult. But we will bring to NOL our scale and, with that, we expect NOL results to improve," he said.

NOL will be in the new Ocean Alliance that CMA CGM struck in April with Cosco Container Lines in China, Evergreen Line in Taiwan and Orient Overseas Container Line in Hong Kong.

Mr Saade noted: "The alliance commands some 35 per cent of the Asia-Europe route market share, and 39 per cent of the Asia-United States market share. NOL can take advantage of this economy of scale."

CMA CGM plans to sell US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) in assets to strengthen its balance sheet after its US$2.4 billion takeover of NOL.

CMA CGM has built its holding in NOL to 81.2 per cent, and is in the midst of acquiring the remaining stock with a $1.30-a-share offer to delist NOL. This offer price will not be raised, Mr Saade said.

The high-profile acquisition raised concerns here about the decline of the home-grown shipping sector, but Mr Saade is hopeful. With NOL in the fold, the group will command an 11.5 per cent global market share.

It is looking to build its Asia-Pacific hub here. "About one-third of our traffic through the Klang port in Malaysia will be moved here, which is around one million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units). Our regional headquarters will also be moved from Hong Kong to Singapore," he said.

Separately, CMA CGM and PSA Singapore Terminals formed a joint venture to lease and operate four container berths to serve CMA CGM and its affiliates.

An earlier version of this story spelt Klang port wrongly. This has been corrected. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline 'CMA CGM says most key execs will stay to help steer NOL'. Print Edition | Subscribe