Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) said it is in separate talks with France's CMA CGM and Denmark's AP Moeller-Maersk on a potential sale of the Singapore container company.
"NOL has a duty to assess all options to maximise shareholder value and improve its competitiveness," the company said in a statement to the Singapore stock exchange on Saturday, adding that the discussions are preliminary and there is no assurance that a definitive agreement will be reached.
CMA CGM has made a preliminary offer for NOL, which has a market value of $2.7 billion, sources, who asked not to be identified as the information is private, said earlier.
Marseille-based CMA CGM is now conducting due diligence, though it has not been granted exclusivity, according to one of the sources. Maersk is also in talks about buying NOL but talks are less advanced, the sources said.
A deal is unlikely to be struck soon, as the slumping shipping sector damps the appetite for aggressive bidding, two of the sources said. Temasek Holdings, which owns 67 per cent of NOL, may not be willing sell its stake at a low price, they said.
The shipping company that helped cement Singapore's status as a global trade hub is attracting takeover interest after simplifying its structure earlier this year by selling its $1.2 billion logistics unit.
Buying NOL, South-east Asia's largest container line, would help consolidate CMA CGM's No. 3 position in container shipping.