News Articles

Dutch international maritime firms agree to merge after all

Icons Boskalis and Smit join forces

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ROTTERDAM - Dutch salvage company Smit International has given up its opposition to a take over by the Dutch-based international dredging company Royal Boskalis Westminster. The dredging company, with 10,200 employees and revenue of 2.2 billion euros, is taking over Smit International (3,600 employees and revenue of 708 million euros) in a 1.35 billion euro deal. No loss of jobs is expected in the takeover.

At the end of last year, Boskalis tried to take over a division of Smit, which provides harbour services for oil and gas terminals, but was met by strong opposition. Subsequent attempts to incorporate the entire Smit International stable of firms failed as well.

Accordig to Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski there is no longer any question of breaking up Smit. All its activities will be continued unchanged. Ben Vree, current CEO of Smit will join the supervisory board of the merged company.

The merger bolsters a “Dutch maritime player of global stature,” an elated Berdowski said. The need to protect profit margins brought the two companies together. Both companies have been hit by the economic crisis, with Smit instituting a hiring freeze and Boskalis seeing projects worth 450 million euros being shelved, including a proposed port in Dubai.

According to Boskalis, it wants to focus less on dredging and more on salvage, a way to improve profits again. Berdowski called Smit’s towing services a “pearl of growth”, as it has done relatively well in spite of the downturn in transhipment in the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp.

In the final three weeks before the deal, merger negotiations took a turn for the better when it became apparent that Boskalis was dropping the idea of breaking up Smit after the take over. Berdowski and Vree, previously combatants, changed their tunes and decided they could create more synergy together.