(Columbus Line's parent)
What's Next? Its traditional markets are under siege from new competition. Its parent won't stand being tainted by losses. The next steps are crucial.
Hamburg-Sud is at a crossroads.
Hammered by unprecedented competition in its traditionally stable markets, Germany's most profitable shipping company is finding it a lot harder these days to write its accounts in black ink.
Still making money, it wants to stay that way. Staying profitable means making a few alterations.
One change under consideration could teach us a lot more about Hamburg-Sud and its parent company, the family-held Oetker Group, than we know now.
"A question we are discussing within the Oetker family is should we stay private or form a public structure," said Horst Schomburg, chairman of Hamburg-Sudamerikanische Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft Eggert & Amsinck, Hamburg-Sud's formal name.
Schomburg did not elaborate on these discussions, but it would be logical to assume that any attempt to interest the public in owning a piece of Hamburg-Sud would have to take place before profits slip much further.
Like its parent, Hamburg-Sud does not publish profit figures. In 1992 its revenue dropped 7 percent to 1.2 billion Deutsche Marks ($71 million). Earnings were also down, "but these could still be described as satisfactory," Hamburg-Sud said in its 1992 annual report.
The main culprit in 1992 was the weakness of the U.S. dollar. But as the dollar slowly strengthened, other, much more worrying concerns, took its place.
Changing Times. In South America, liberalization of old cargo- reservation regimes opened the door to a tide of new …