Shipping and tourism giant TUI hits stormy seas

A shareholders' meeting of Germany's TUI turned into a stormy affair on Wednesday as a Norwegian billionaire sought to chart a new course for the shipping and tourism giant.

Shipping and tourism giant TUI hits stormy seas
Photo: DPA

Norwegian shipping magnate John Fredriksen, TUI’s biggest shareholder, kicked off hostilities at the packed meeting in the northern German city of Hanover with a shot across the bows of the blue chip firm’s management.

Through his spokesman Tor Olav Troim, Fredriksen attacked the recent decision by TUI management to split its Hapag-Lloyd shipping activities into a separate entity and to explore either a spin-off, a sale or a merger.

TUI chief executive Michael Frenzel told the annual general meeting that TUI aimed to reach a deal on Hapag-Lloyd “swiftly,” with the preferred method being a sale to an investor.

According to reports, TUI has been in talks to sell Hapag-Lloyd to Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines, which may offer as much as €6 billion to €7 billion ($9 billion to $11 billion) for the world’s fifth biggest shipping line. But Troim said TUI should first focus on developing Hapag-Lloyd’s business and then merge with another shipping line.

Roundly applauded by shareholders, he also said that by deciding to grant Russian billionaire Alexei Mordashov a seat on the supervisory board the management had violated the rights of shareholders.

Mordashov – who in recent months has built up a 10-percent stake in TUI against 11.7 percent for Fredriksen – sees things differently and is viewed as an ally of Frenzel, supporting the decision to seek a swift sale of Hapag-Lloyd. His background is in tourism and he has said he wants to launch a joint venture with TUI on the fast-growing Russian tourism market.

Mordashov was not at the meeting but he was represented by Vladimir Yakushev, managing partner of shareholder Alexei Mordashov’s S-Group Capital Management, who did not address the meeting.

Troim also called for Jürgen Krumnow, the head of the supervisory board – the body which in Germany appoints the chief executive – to be sacked, and called for Fredriksen’s investment company Monteray to be given two seats on the board. He later softened his demand and called for Fredriksen, who was absent from the shareholders’ meeting, to be given one seat.

It also emerged that Fredriksen has offered to buy Mordashov’s stake for €19 per share, above the recent trading price of around €18.60.

Earlier Wednesday, TUI said it had slashed an operating loss during the first quarter with a strong performance from its shipping operations. It said its pre-tax loss had narrowed during the first three months of 2008 to €196 million from €248 million a year earlier.

TUI’s traditionally weak first-quarter sales rose 24 percent to €5.1 billion from €4.1 billion, thanks in large part to the merger of its tourism unit last year with the British operator First Choice.

TUI said in March it aimed to increase sales and profits this year. It is to publish detailed results, including its net profit, May 15.


Is Leipzig really Germany’s ‘ultimate travel destination’?

The Saxonian city of Leipzig has been named by traveller’s bible Lonely Planet as its “ultimate” travel tip for Germany. Does the Local Germany’s knowledgeable readership agree?

The city centre of Leipzig.
The city centre of Leipzig. Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild

Long a cult favourite among Germany fans, the left-wing city of Leipzig appears to now be gaining mainstream recognition after the Lonely Planet crowned it the country’s top travel destination this week.

In a new book titled “Ultimate German Travel Destinations – the top 250”, the travel publisher put Leipzig ahead of picturesque getaways such as Lake Constance and the Zugspitze as its number one destination.

“The hype that some say surrounds the city isn’t hype t all: Leipzig really is hipper than Berlin, and hotter than Munich, especially among millennials,” the guidebook boldly claims.

It goes on to lavish praise on the city of 600,000 inhabitants as “young, exciting, multifaceted – sometimes colourful, sometimes grey – and with a vibrant liveliness.”

“Everyone wants to go to the city where the anti-GDR demonstrations started,” the guidebook continues. “It is the home of Auerbachs Keller (made famous by Goethe and Faust); it’s the city of street art and wave gothic festivals; and its artistic scene at the Baumwollspinnerei is second to none.”

READ ALSO: A love letter to the eastern German city of Leipzig

‘Not cooler than Berlin’

Reaction to the list among the Local’s readership was mixed.

“It is a beautiful city and it’s easy to navigate. I find it hard to say that it’s cooler than Berlin, though. Berlin simply has more,” one reader told us on Facebook. “It’s the kind of place where people find their ‘spot.” I think most people in Leipzig know about most places in Leipzig. It’s a much smaller city. That may just be a more favourable lifestyle for some.”

Praise for Saxony’s biggest city ranged from admiration for the beauty of its architecture (particularly its train station) to the vibrancy of its arts scene.

Others suggested that Leipzig is indeed overhyped and that it can’t compete with natural wonders such as the pristine Königssee in the Bavarian Alps.

Lake Constance wins silver

Lake Constance, the country’s largest body of fresh water, came in second on the list.

The authors praised the southern See, which borders Switzerland and Austria, for “the many beautiful spots on its shores: Lindau, Meersburg, Überlingen, Constance and more – often surrounded by lush orchards.”

A regatta on the Bodensee in September 2021. Photo: dpa | Felix Kästle 

Hamburg’s new Elbphilharmonie concert hall came in third. 

“It’s impossible to imagine the Hanseatic city’s skyline without this glass work of art, which soars into the sky above the harbour like a frozen wave,” the book notes.

Also in the top ten were the Wattenmeer, which is a huge nature reserve on the North Sea coast, Berlin’s museum island, the sandstone hills of Saxony, and Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze in Bavaria.