he U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division has scuttled the proposed merger between Chinese container giant CIMC and Maersk-owned reefer container builder Maersk Container Industry (MCI). Working together with German competition regulators, the DOJ blocked the deal because it would put 90 percent of the world's reefer container production in the hands of Chinese state-controlled enterprises.
“American consumers depend on the global cold supply chain for many of our everyday essentials,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “CIMC’s acquisition of MCI threatened to harm this critical aspect of our economy leading to higher prices, lower quality, and less resiliency in global supply chains.
According to DOJ, the deal would have solidified CIMC's dominance in the sector and raised the risk of market coordination among the other players, the majority of whom have shared ownership or other relationships.
Last September, Shenzhen-headquartered CIMC agreed to acquire Maersk Container Industry, a specialist in reefer manufacturing. The transaction valued MCI at nearly $1 billion, and would have transferred the entire organization and its assets, including a reefer factory in Qingdao and R&D and test engineering facilities in Denmark.
CIMC and other Chinese box manufactuerers have been investigated by U.S. authorities before. In 2014, the U.S. Trade Commission looked into allegations that CIMC and another Chinese firm were engaged in anticompetitive dumping, selling 53-foot boxes into the U.S. market at below cost by leaning on a subsidy from the Chinese government. The agency's initial decision found that dumping was damaging U.S. container manufacturing interests and imposed import tariffs of 107 percent. CIMC successfully appealed and the commission found no harm to U.S. domestic industry.
A second, separate investigation into CIMC's trade practices resulted in U.S. import tariffs on its sales of chassis in the American market. Canada implemented comparable tariffs on CIMC's chassis imports in February 2022.