Cosco chairman Wei retires after building biggest bulk fleet

Wei Jiafu retired as chairman of China Ocean Shipping Group Co. after expanding the company’s commodities fleet into the world’s largest as demand for iron-ore imports fueled a boom that led to a glut of vessels.

Wei was replaced by Ma Zehua, the group’s president, according to a statement posted on the Cosco Group’s website today. Li Yunpeng took over for Ma and the appointments were announced July 1, it said, without saying why the changes were being made. Two calls to the company were not returned.

Cosco Group is restructuring assets of its listed flagship China Cosco (1919) Holdings Co. to help it return to profit after two straight annual losses. Freight rates for hauling containers, commodities and crude have slumped because of weak demand and excess capacity.

Under Wei’s helm, Cosco’s fleet expanded to 800 ships, according to the company’s website. The chairman also helped build a group that has interests in 32 ports and 1.8 million containers globally, along with shipyards and rig-makers that hold one-third of China’s offshore equipment orders.

Cosco controls or owns stakes in six listed companies. China Cosco, which runs container and commodities transportation business, is its biggest listed firm. The group’s fleet of commodities ships is the world’s largest according to a Nippon Yusen K.K. annual report citing data from industry researcher Clarkson. NYK has the second-biggest bulk fleet.

China Cosco rose 1.8 percent to HK$3.46 at the close in Hong Kong trading today. The stock has slumped 43 percent over the past two years.


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