Embracing the future as an engaged owner

Published on 07 June 2017

A.P. Møller Holding has been established to support the development of the Maersk and Danske Bank activities, while safeguarding the Maersk name and the values it stands for. Another ambition behind its establishment is to invest in new companies. Maersk Post spoke to CEO Robert M. Uggla about the company’s role.

Could you give a brief description of A.P. Møller Holding

A.P. Møller Holding was established in 2013 as the parent company of A.P. Moller - Maersk. To simplify, you can say that the A.P. Møller Foundation gave A.P. Møller Holding the task of exercising its role as majority owner in A.P. Moller - Maersk and of managing the Foundation’s future investments. In 2014, A.P. Møller Holding acquired a large shareholding in Danske Bank, which is a leading bank in Scandinavia.

Why did you establish A.P. Møller Holding?

The Foundation and family were engaged in a project we called ‘Renatum’, which means revival. We felt it was time to reflect on why we had been successful for the last hundred years and what was required to stay relevant for the next hundred years. We concluded that we needed to revitalise our ownership strategy and ownership structure. Subsequently, as part of our participation on the Board of A.P. Moller – Maersk, we also discussed how we could establish an agile and flexible structure for the Maersk activities, driving capital discipline, and where relevant, an increased focus on growth opportunities.

What is the purpose of A.P. Møller Holding?

As the investment arm of the A.P. Møller Foundation, our purpose is to exercise the Foundation’s role as an engaged owner in A.P. Moller - Maersk and Danske Bank, and to ensure that the Foundation can continue contributing to society, in the form of donations, for generations to come. We fulfill this purpose by safeguarding the long-term viability of our portfolio companies and by investing in and building new businesses.

As owners, we believe portfolio renewal comes from developing new businesses inside as well as outside our core holdings. For example, Danske Bank’s MobilePay is an inspiring example of how to try to build a new business platform inside an existing business. At the same time, A.P. Møller Holding is looking at investment opportunities, which have the potential to become bigger businesses outside of our current core holdings.

Finally, I think many see A.P. Møller Holding as a cultural custodian. We need to make sure that the Maersk family name and values are developed in the spirit of A.P. Møller and his son Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller.

Why is A.P. Møller Holding looking to diversify its investments at a time when A.P. Moller - Maersk is consolidating?

We believe it is paramount to have a diversified portfolio if we are to manage risk in our various portfolio companies. In the past, the Foundation secured diversification through the portfolio of A.P. Moller - Maersk. In the future, the Foundation will secure such diversification through the portfolio of A.P. Møller Holding. It is a structure that enables some of the businesses to become more agile and flexible in how they approach opportunities, while allowing the parent company to remain diversified.


What do you mean by being an engaged owner?

To me ‘engaged ownership’ means providing value through our ownership model. We believe our staying power as a long-term, stable owner along with our understanding of and passion for our businesses drive the right decision-making, to the benefit of all shareholders. Through our engaged participation on the various Boards, we have a point of view on key matters such as executive talent management, strategy, capital structure and investments.

Looking at possible future investments by A.P. Møller Holding, can we expect that new companies in the portfolio will all live by the Core Values?

The Core Values are closely associated with the Maersk family name and the family’s and Foundation’s ownership of the various Maersk companies. A.P. Møller Holding will consider these values when evaluating new investments. That said, we do not have a desire to change a company’s already defined corporate values, just because we become an owner. For example, Danske Bank has its own corporate values, but they are in no way in breach of Maersk’s Core Values.

What role does A.P. Møller Holding have in the restructuring of A.P. Moller - Maersk?

The restructuring is a matter for the Board of A.P. Moller - Maersk with the purpose of separating out some of the companies, which may be better off standing on their own feet. From A.P. Møller Holding’s point of view, we see ourselves as an engaged future owner of several companies.

Will the restructuring of A.P. Moller-Maersk be A.P. Møller Holding’s main focus in coming years?

No, we have several important tasks. We do our utmost to support our core holdings in their development. For me personally, this means spending a lot of time as Board member of A.P. Moller-Maersk. At the same time, we, in A. P. Møller Holding, are very focused on defining our investment strategy and build up an organisation, in order to be able to acquire and develop business platforms.

How would you describe A.P. Møller Holding as an organisation?

For the time being, we probably come across as more of a start-up than as a corporate or traditional investment company. We intend to remain a very lean organisation with fast decision-making and a high level of energy. I have the privilege to work with a team of talented people, who aspire to be part of building a great organisation and leading investment house. We also benefit from a network of great advisors, fellow Board members, executives and external partners. I think we are very blessed to be part of such a strong ecosystem.

Are there other holding structures that A.P. Møller Holding has been inspired by – or could be compared to?

I have tried to spend as much time as possible learning about the ownership models and strategies of other families and foundations, in many different countries. Each business is different, the size of the business and ownership structure vary a lot. That said, all the families I have met, share the passion for their core values and the relentless pursuit of trying to ensure that their businesses stay relevant over time. It is no easy feat: the life expectancy of a corporation is shorter than that of a human being.

Taking this challenge upon yourself, establishing and leading A.P. Møller Holding, what is your biggest motivation?

To be part of building and developing a group of companies, which have a positive and lasting impact on society.


Laura Maersk.

A history full of changes

Maersk’s activities have undergone several structural and strategic shifts over the course of more than a hundred years. This willingness of its owners, Board of Directors and management to make changes when necessary has been essential to Maersk staying relevant and thriving.

Here are some examples of decisions, which have had a profound impact upon the company:

  • In 1883, Peter Mærsk Møller survived a terrible storm off Western Scotland, but his sailing barque, Valkyrien, sank with all cargo lost. Although nearly 50 years old, Peter Mærsk Møller realised he had to re-educate himself and subsequently secured a certificate as a steamship master. Two years later, he acquired the steamship, Laura, in his aspiration to build a family business.
  • In the early 1900s, A.P. Møller established The Steamship Company Svendborg and The Steamship Company of 1912, as well as A.P. Møller Køb og Salg (later renamed Maersk Broker). These activities soon became associated with a star on a blue background, originally used as funnel mark for Laura.
  • In 1953, The A.P. Møller Foundation was established in order to secure and control the long-term ownership of the listed steamship companies.
  • In 1968, a few years after the death of his father, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller pursued an organisational redesign followed by the creation of the company’s first formal strategy document and, later, by the establishment of new businesses linked to the liner and oil businesses.
  • In 2003, The Steamship Company Svendborg and The Steamship Company of 1912 merged to become A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S.
  • In 2013, the A.P. Møller Foundation established A.P. Møller Holding. Soon thereafter, A.P. Møller Holding became the biggest shareholder in Danske Bank.
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