Germany allows China’s Cosco to take 24.9% stake in largest port

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BERLIN, Oct 26 (Reuters) – The German cabinet approved on Wednesday an investment by China’s Cosco for a 24.9% stake in one of logistics firm HHLA’s three terminals in Germany’s largest port in Hamburg.

This is less than the initially planned 35% stake that the Chinese shipping giant had aimed for and does not give Cosco any say in management or strategic decisions.

The compromise was negotiated after significant political resistance against a Cosco participation and comes a week before Chancellor Olaf Scholz is due to travel to China.

Cosco did not immediately reply to a request for comment. A German government source told Reuters that the Chinese company had agreed to the deal.

HHLA, which is majority-owned by the city of Hamburg and one of the main users of the Hamburg port, had no comment.

With the original 35% deal, the German logistics firm had wanted to tie its long-standing shipping customer to the Hamburg port in the face of fierce international competition.

However, the painful experience of being too dependent on Russian gas has changed the German government’s attitude towards strategic foreign investments. Economy minister Robert Habeck was among the politicians who said Germany should avoid Chinese investment in critical infrastructure if possible.

Supporters of the HHLA deal say it will allow Hamburg, where Scholz was mayor for seven years, to keep pace with rival ports that are also vying for Chinese trade and some of which are partly owned by Cosco.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Jan Schwartz; writing by Rachel More, Kirsti Knolle; editing by Maria Sheahan and Louise Heavens)

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