Turkish industrial conglomerate Yildirim Holding plans to divest its major stake of one fourth in the world's third largest container carrier, French CMA CGM, by 2015, says President and CEO of Yildrim Holding, Robert Yuksel Yildirim, in an interview with ShippingWatch. He also reveals that P3 would have been the best alliance model for the French carrier, which has now instead become part of Ocean Three alongside UASC and CSCL.

Robert Yuksel Yildirim is head of the wealthy Yildrim family, which in addition to the stake in CMA CGM also has major interests in mining, shipbuilding and port activities, among other industries. He recently participated in Danish Maritime Days in Copenhagen, where he - besides meeting Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik - was seated next to Maersk Group CEO Nils Smedegaard Andersen at the gala evening at the Opera - a factor that was interpreted by numerous observers as a sign of his very strong position in the shipping industry.

Divesting in 2015

"I will most likely exit my investment next year," says Robert Yuksel Yildirim when ShippingWatch asks him about the perspectives of the investment, which first stood at 20 percent in 2010 before being increased to 24 percent last year.

Do you want to stay up to date on the latest developments in International shipping? Subscribe to our newsletter – the first 40 days are free

The investment in the carrier was made with a five-year time-frame, meaning that Yildrim will have to reevaluate the stake next year, but he already expects to divest the shares. At this moment, he explains, he sees three possibilities:

"Either the family could buy the shares back, there could be an IPO, or they could be sold to a third party," he says.

November will mark four years since Yildirim acquired 20 percent of CMA CGM for around USD 500 million, a move that provided three seats on the carrier's Board of Directors. This also represented Yildirim Holding's first private equity investment. At the time, the Saade family kept the remaining 80 percent of the shares, and Yildirim's role as minority shareholder is a key argument for divesting the shares next year, says Robert Yuksel Yildirim:

Wants to be in the driver's seat

"We want to be in the driver's seat, and right now we're in the passenger seat. So we're going to concentrate on other areas and we have five core businesses in which we want to grow."

The decision to withdraw from CMA CGM comes at a time when the container industry at long last has settled into five major alliances controlling a vast majority of the global market. CMA CGM has been sampling numerous competitors in recent years, and the carrier looked set to become part of P3 together with Maersk Line and MSC, until the Chinese authorities rejected the collaboration ahead of the summer holiday season. Instead, Maersk Line and MSC have now formed the 2M alliance, and CMA CGM is one of the three carriers in Ocean Three. And this outcome does not represent the major shareholder's preferred solution, he says.

Do you want to stay up to date on the latest developments in International shipping? Subscribe to our newsletter – the first 40 days are free

"I personally would have preferred P3. On the other hand, CMA CGM was the small kid in class, and that's not the case with Ocean Three. Now the carrier needs to work smarter and harder, and there are growth opportunities in the new alliance, which is positive," says Robert Yuksel Yildirim.

The Yildirim Group entered shipping in 1999 and was especially active within bulk during the early years. In 2004 the group also entered chemical tanker. In 2011, Yildrim made its second investment in the maritime sector when the conglomerate acquired three fourths of Belgian Sealease, which offers financing for shipping companies.

Read the next article with Robert Yuksel Yildirim tomorrow, where he explains which business areas the conglomerate will bank on in the years to come.

Drewry: Global alliances a long way off

Divestment brings CMA CGM profit of USD 408 million

CMA CGM saw operating profit drop in 1st quarter

Here are the world's richest shipping families

Here are the pictures from the Danish Maritime Forum