Wilhelmsen near major Korean deal

South Korea's largest container ship operator, Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., said on Monday it was in talks with a Scandinavian joint venture over the sale of its automobile transport business.

Aftenposten believes that the cooperative firm Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines will pay USD 1.4 billion, nearly NOK 13 billion, for 10-12 auto transport vessels and 70 leased ships from the Korean firm.

If the deal goes through it will be one of the largest purchases in shipping history, doubling the Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines fleet.

Hyundai, financially hurt by exposure to related Hyundai Group firms, said last month it would terminate two of its five container ship routes in a bid to save costs.

"We signed a non-binding agreement with Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA and Wallenius Lines AB over the sale of the auto transport operation," Hyundai said in a statement.

Wilhelmsen and Wallenius established a joint venture in 1999 to operate a fleet of auto transport vessels, Hyundai said. Hyundai shares closed up 4.45 percent at 3,400 won ($2.57) on Monday, while the broader stock market index ended up 1.73 percent.