„I have serious concerns“: Billionaire Kühne seeks to acquire Hamburg Port.

DThe logistics billionaire Klaus Michael Kühne is making a move for the Port of Hamburg. In an interview with the „Hamburger Abendblatt,“ he expressed „serious concerns“ about the poorly managed port. He is ready to take over the struggling operating company, HHLA. Although it is publicly traded, over two-thirds of the shares belong to the city of Hamburg. Therefore, Kühne is aware that without the Senate’s approval, he has no chance of becoming a major shareholder with significant influence.

Susanne Preuß

Wirtschaftskorrespondentin in Hamburg.

„I cannot reword“

„I am not concerned about returns“

The HHLA operates three out of four container terminals in the Port of Hamburg and has recently been the source of negative news. In August, CEO Angela Titzrath had to retract her previously somewhat optimistic forecast for this year. Now, a significant decline in revenue is expected for the full year, with the result likely to plummet to almost half of last year’s value. In the preface of the quarterly report, Titzrath writes that the HHLA has „strengthened its cost discipline,“ with expenses and projects being postponed unless they are urgently necessary. Savings are intended to be implemented „immediately.“

During the IPO in 2007, there was still talk of the „People’s Share Port“, and the market value of HHLA reached 4.5 billion euros. However, for years now, the stock has been stagnant. Currently, the market value is at 744 million euros – a bargain from Kühne’s perspective, who also holds a 30 percent stake in the Hamburg-based liner shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, which, like all container shipping companies, has made unimaginably good profits during the Corona pandemic. Kühne has also earned billions in dividends through this.

Auch beim HSV engagiert

He has already invested a part of it in Lufthansa, now the port would be his next move. However, Kühne apparently also considers an involvement of Hapag-Lloyd to be sensible instead of a direct entry into HHLA AG. „Why not? That would be even better,“ Kühne said in response to a corresponding question in an interview with the „Hamburger Abendblatt“. In any case, he emphasizes with regard to his interest in the majority of HHLA: „It’s not about return for me, but about helping the city and advancing a national port concept.“

As a generous benefactor to his hometown, the Swiss resident Kühne has repeatedly shown his support. Last year, the avid opera lover even suggested that he could build an opera house for the city of Hamburg if they were to demolish the old one. The Hamburg Senate dismissed Kühne’s proposal, believing that the opera house would not be a gift but rather a business venture, as the entrepreneur intended to realize his own real estate project on the opera property. Kühne’s involvement with the second division football club HSV has also been subject to conditions that some found unacceptable.