Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) is set to join a growing list of landmark Singapore companies that have “fallen into foreign hands”, according to a commentary by The Straits Times’ Jacqueline Woo.
She said many have lamented the loss of iconic home-grown names in recent years, with the likes of Fraser & Neave, Robinsons, Raffles Hotel, and Asia Pacific Breweries all being taken over by foreign buyers.
“It does seem like we are putting up pieces of Singapore Inc for sale, little by little.”
But if France’s CMA CGM, the world's third-largest carrier, should acquire NOL at its offer bid of $3.38 billion, it may not be “such a bad thing”. She reflected that NOL has contributed substantially to the nation's progress, even to the point where its sale is “a potent sign” that Singapore has advanced.
Woo acknowledged that NOL has done Singapore proud. It grew from being a fledgling line with just 5 vessels to become the world's 12th-largest container shipping player, operating around 90 vessels.
However, there is “little point” in holding on to NOL as an iconic asset when its strategic significance has diminished with time. She said this is crucial given that NOL has been bleeding financially, and the industry has been buffeted by slowing demand and severe overcapacity in shipping.
Woo said that in both global shipping and the global economy, consolidation has become the name of the game. So perhaps it was a sign that this is “a good time to let go of NOL” to look for the next strategic asset.
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Source: “Good time to let go of NOL?” (The Straits Times, 9 Dec 2015)