Container ship Laila in the port of Yantian_© CULines
© CULines

China United Lines (CULines) has applied to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The liner operator, which is majority owned by the Chinese state, did not provide any fund-raising target or timetable in its listing prospectus, but stated that it plans to use the proceeds to expand its fleet, acquire warehouses and container yards, and to expand its logistics services, as well as to grow its service network.

China International Capital Corporation and Citi are the joint bookrunners of CULines’ initial public offering.

Originally an NVOCC, CULines began intra-Asia liner services on chartered vessels, but expanded its fleet with two second-hand ship purchases and ventured into the transpacific and Asia-Europe lanes in 2021, as freight rates continued strengthen.

From being ranked 95th among liner operators in October 2020, CULines has climbed to 22nd place as of this week, as the company now operates 33 ships with a total capacity of 83,103 teu.

In November 2021, CULines appointed former Hapag-Lloyd executive Lars Christiansen as co-CEO alongside Raymond Chen, indicating a move towards international expansion, as it is unusual for a Chinese state-owned company to name foreigners, particularly Westerners, to high posts.

CULines has six vessels on order, with a capacity ranging from 1,900 teu to 2,400 teu, which will be delivered between June 2022 and December 2023.

The majority of CULines’ fleet comprises small-to-medium-sized vessels with a shipping capacity of less than 5,300 teu, enabling more port options, and allows operations of both short-sea and deep-sea shipping routes.

The company said: “We plan to further optimise the effective distribution of various vessel sizes in our fleet to further match our short-sea and deep-sea shipping route portfolio and reinforce our competitive strengths. We also plan to further optimise our fleet structure and enter into agreements with vessel chartering companies with varying terms, which, we believe, can reduce our operational risks under changing market conditions.”

CULines plans to establish seven warehouses and three container yards in Shanghai and Nansha in China, Los Angeles in the US, Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Phong in Vietnam, Laem Chabang and Bangkok in Thailand.

The company also intends to acquire operators of trailers and flat railcars in Los Angeles.

In the first nine months of last year the company saw net profits of $182.2 million, far exceeding its net profits of $13.37 million in 2020

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