After months of dispute, the Chinese state-owned company Cosco can now take over almost 25 percent of a container terminal of the Hamburg port operator HHLA <DE000A0S8488>. The German government has decided to release the minority stake of the Chinese company Cosco Shipping Ports Limited (CSPL) in Container Terminal Tollerort (CTT), Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) announced on Wednesday.

"All questions relating to the investment review procedure were clarified together in intensive, constructive discussions," HHLA emphasised. According to its own statements, the German government confirmed in a letter on Wednesday "that the revised purchase agreements are in line with the conditions of the partial ban".

Cosco originally wanted 35 percent

HHLA could now develop the terminal into a preferred transshipment point for HHLA's long-standing customer Cosco, where cargo flows between Asia and Europe would be concentrated, HHLA explained. According to HHLA, China is currently the largest trading partner of Germany and the Port of Hamburg. Around 30 percent of the goods handled in the Port of Hamburg come from China or go there.

CSPL's minority stake thus secures employment and strengthens Hamburg's national and international importance as a logistics location as well as Germany as an industrial nation. In total, around 1.35 million jobs in Germany depend on the ports.

Cosco originally wanted to take over 35 percent of the operating company of Container Terminal Tollerort GmbH. However, a fierce political dispute had flared up in the German government over the question of whether Chinese participation should be allowed. Last October, the cabinet decided on a so-called partial ban, which only allows Cosco to acquire shares of less than 25 percent. Any further acquisition above this threshold was prohibited.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had spoken out in favour of the acquisition. Within the federal government, however, there had been fierce headwinds. The Foreign Ministry and other ministries had expressed serious concerns about the cabinet's decision. The acquisition disproportionately expands China's strategic influence on German and European transport infrastructure as well as Germany's dependence on China, it said in a protocol statement at the end of October.

The Federal Government emphasised that HHLA's Container Terminal Tollerort is now considered an operator of critical infrastructure in accordance with the legal requirements. The cabinet decision of the end of October remains in place. "The partial ban of autumn 2022 thus remains legally valid."