COSCO Shipping Acquires Spanish Port Operations; Continues State Plan to Acquire New Transportation Assets

On June 12, 2017, COSCO Shipping Holding Company announced the acquisition of a 51% stake in Spanish container and rail terminal operator, Noatum Ports, for $227.81 million.  The acquisition grants COSCO access to two shipping terminals in Valencia and Bilbao as well as two dry ports in Madrid and Zaragoza.  The acquisition represents China’s entry into Spain’s transportation sector (if approved by shareholders).  The COSCO investment, however, would only be the latest in a growing network of transportation/shipping investments by Chinese firms across Europe as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative.

On June 12, Greece’s Piraeus Port Authority (majority-owned by COSCO Shipping) signed a memorandum of cooperation with Shanghai International Ports Co. and described the project as “strategic,” related to the influx of Chinese cargo exports flowing to European markets.  That signing ceremony was attended by members of the respective entities as well as Han Zheng, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee.

State-owned COSCO Shipping, in particular, bas been a big part of China’s recent pattern of expansion in this sector.  Indeed, the company has an established “five-year” objective to increase its total assets by 50% and is to receive some $26 billion in financing from state-owned China Development Bank to make this a reality in the advancement of the Belt and Road initiative.