NEW YORK — A.P. Moeller-Maersk is beefing up its position as the world’s largest shipping company.

The firm said last week it reached an agreement to acquire Royal P&O Nedlloyd NV for 57 euros per share, bringing the total purchase price to about 2.3 billion euros, or $2.9 billion at current exchange rates.

The purchase price represents a 40.6 percent premium to the May 9 closing price, according to a joint statement from the companies. The deal is expected to close by August, after a special meeting of P&O Nedlloyd shareholders scheduled for July.

“The cash offer from Maersk represents full and fair value for P&O Nedlloyd shareholders and accordingly, the board of P&O Nedlloyd has no hesitation in recommending the offer to them,” Philip Green, chief executive officer of Nedlloyd, said in a statement. “At the same time, we believe the combination of our two businesses will ensure that both customers and employees will enjoy the benefits of a substantially enhanced business.”

If the deal reaches completion, Maersk will pick up the world’s fourth-largest shipping company. Maersk Sealand, with more than 300 container vessels and 1 million containers, is already the world’s largest shipping company. Adding Nedlloyd will give Maersk an additional 156 ships and 428,000 containers.

The planned acquisition comes as Nedlloyd is posting significant gains in its shipping volume. In 2004, the company shipped a total of 4.1 million 20-foot-equivalent units — the standard maritime industry measurement used to count cargo containers — a 10 percent increase from the 3.4 million TEUs shipped in 2003. The largest gains came from its transpacific routes, rising 17 percent to 614,000 TEUs from 523,000.

This story first appeared in the May 17, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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