meratus gorontalo
Meratus Gorontalo Photo: VesselFinder

Abu Dhabi Ports (AD Ports) is reportedly in serious discussions to acquire Indonesian logistics and coastal container shipping company PT Meratus Line.

In July, reports circulated that the Menaro family, which owns Indonesia’s largest domestic container carrier, was seeking a buyer for $2bn.

According to Linerlytica, AD Ports has emerged as the favoured buyer, the state-owned terminal operator seeking vertical integration of the maritime supply chain, following in the footsteps of its neighbour, DP World.

AD Ports began venturing outside its core port/terminals business into ship-owning and operating in 2020, when it formed Safeen Feeders, a joint-venture with Singapore-based shortsea operator Bengal Tiger Line (BTL), with its terminals offering feeder services between the Persian Gulf and the Indian subcontinent.

It also acquired second-hand box ships to build on the JV, which flourished amid the Covid-fuelled boom. The tie-up with BTL ended in June 2022, and Safeen became part of AD Ports’ shipping operation, which expanded into marine and offshore services, dry bulk, tanker and ro-ro shipping.

In November 2022, AD Ports agreed to acquire an 80% stake in Dubai-based Global Feeder Shipping (GFS), but completion of the deal is pending approval from antitrust regulators. This July, AD Ports completed its $717m takeover of Spanish logistics group Noatum, with its presence in 26 countries in all five continents.

Meanwhile, founded by Bapak Hen Menaro in Surabaya in 1957, Meratus owns and operates 54 box ships, with a total capacity of 36,362 teu, has a 693 teu vessel on order at Guangxin Shipbuilding and also owns six bulk carriers.

Meratus diversified when it started a China-Indonesia express service in March 2022, but faltering demand saw the service pause seven months later. In February, it launched a service to Papua New Guinea.

Meanwhile, Safeen Feeders operates 13 boxships of 29,604 teu and combined with GFS and Meratus would rank just behind the two largest feeder operators, X-Press Feeders and DP World subsidiary Unifeeder.

Linerlytica analyst Tan Hua Joo told The Loadstar that Meratus’s Indonesian terminals could see synergy with AD Ports.

He said: “Meratus operates two terminals in Indonesia (Jakarta and Surabaya) so it would extend AD Ports’ footprint. Otherwise, Meratus’s shipping and logistics operations are almost entirely focused on Indonesia, so there’s little synergy with AD Ports’ existing operations. Some parts of the GFS business may be carved out if AD Ports fails to secure full regulatory approvals, but I believe the deal will be completed.”

Attempts by The Loadstar for comment from AD Ports and Meratus were unsuccessful.

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