Ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge initiate merger negotiations

The port authorities in Antwerp and Zeebrugge have been given the green light to start negotiations with a view to a possible merger, in stages, between the two Belgian ports. The decision was made on the basis of the results of a study of complementarity and robustness, carried out by the external consultancy firms Deloitte and Laga.

Complementarity study
Since the beginning of 2018, the Antwerp and Zeebrugge port authorities have held constructive talks with the intention of intensifying cooperation. These negotiations were the reason for granting a study on the complementarity and economic robustness of the operation to the consultancy Deloitte and Laga. In the study, (1) current forms of cooperation were assessed, (2) the potential added value was objectivated to around all possible forms of cooperation, including a merger of both ports, and (3) potential governance scenarios were explored. Port interest and synergy benefits between the two ports always took precedence in this study.

Deloitte and Laga findings
The study report conducted by Deloitte and Laga states that the current cooperation between the two ports has little impact due to existing competition with each other, limited scope and little compromise. However, both ports are very complementary and share the same external challenges. Wide-ranging cooperation, Deloitte notes, would strengthen both ports in certain areas, consolidate employment and give them a more important role in the region, and by extension, internationally. Closer cooperation would also enable faster and better response to future challenges, such as expanding activities, energy transition, innovation and digitisation. The clientele of both ports is also positive about possible advanced cooperation. Deloitte concludes that cooperation only generates a win-win situation for both ports if it is deployed on far-reaching integration between the two port administrations. The management models of a holding or merger were therefore only retained in the governance section of the contract.

Resuming negotiations
The port authorities in the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge are positive about the results of the report and both are ready to formally begin negotiations with a view to a possible merger in stages. It is expected that the entire process will have a lead time of 2-years. 

Dirk De Fauw, chairman of the board of directors of the port of Zeebrugge: "We have been talking to the port of Antwerp for some time to see how we can work more closely, with the aim of strengthening each other's port platforms. The ambition of both port authorities is to form a "Main Port from A to Z", which is future-proof. Based on the growing confidence and positive results of the study report, we are starting formal negotiations with our colleagues of the port of Antwerp."

Annick De Ridder, the Port Delegate of the Antwerp City Council, comments: "Deloitte's study shows that both ports are very complementary and share the same challenges. Through cooperation, Antwerp and Zeebrugge can become the port of the future more quickly and effectively by focusing on new areas of interest, namely energy transition, innovation and digitisation. We are starting formal merger talks with Zeebrugge because we believe that in this way we can consolidate transhipment, industry and logistics more strongly in our port and be the gateway to Europe, even more than we are today."

Source: Port of Antwerp


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