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Family Business Roundup: Maersk, Hutchinson Whampoa, and Comcast

Maersk Line posts huge fall in profit; Three’s takeover of O2 blocked by EU; and Comcast pays founder's widow $490 million to settle

Maersk Line posts huge fall in profit

Danish shipping company Maersk Line, owned by the McKinney-Moeller family, reported a 94.9% drop in profits to $37 million its first quarter, compared to the same period in 2015.

According to the Danish shipping giant, revenue for the first quarter was $4.97 billion, which equates to 20.5% fall over last year.

“We improved our financial performance compared to the fourth quarter in 2015 despite continued drop in prices," said Maersk Line chief executive Søren Skou. "However, our first quarter result is not satisfactory, though as expected.

"In a market with record low freight rates, we won market share, drove down cost, and continued to deliver positive free cash flow, enabling us to fund our own growth,” he added.

Controlled by the McKinney-Moeller family through a foundation, Maersk traces its roots to 1904 when it was set up by Arnold Peter Moeller. The firm had revenues of $40.3 billion in 2015. 

Three’s takeover of O2 blocked by EU

The European Commission (EC) has blocked the £10.25 billion ($14.7 billion) buyout of O2 by Three owner Hutchison Whampoa on competition grounds.

The deal would have transformed Three from the smallest to the biggest mobile operator in the UK.

Margrethe Vestager, Europe's commissioner for competition, said: “This transaction would have created a market leader, a market leader that would have had influence over mobile network infrastructure in the UK. It would very likely have led to higher prices and less choice for UK consumers.”

Hutchison Whampoa, owned by Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, said: “We strongly believe that the merger would have brought major benefits to the UK, not only by unlocking £10 billion of private sector investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure but also by addressing the country’s coverage issues, enhancing network capacity, speeds, and price competition for consumers.”

Hutchison Whampoa had revenues of $54 billion in 2014. 

Comcast pays founder's widow $490 million to settle

US family-controlled media company Comcast has paid $490 million to unwind life insurance policies tied to the late founder Ralph Roberts and his wife Suzanne.

According to a regulatory filing published last month, 94-year-old Suzanne was paid $326 million to cover perks her husband was awarded in 1992 and a further $164 million to end insurance policies on her life.

Comcast said the cost to the company will be less than the $490 million paid out because of corporate tax benefits and because the cash value of the life insurance policies was more than what was paid to Roberts' widow. In total the payments will cost the company around $154 million.

Comcast is currently headed by chairman Brian Roberts. It was founded in 1963 by his father Ralph Roberts, along with Daniel Aaron, and Julian Brodsky. The Roberts family controls one-third of the shareholder votes in the company which posted annual revenues of $17.3 billion in 2015.

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