Norfolkliine is to be taken over by Danish shipping operator DFDS in a €346m cash plus shares deal.
The company which operates the Belfast-Liverpool ferry service employs 390 people in Northern Ireland. It was put up for sale in May after suffering due to difficult economic trading conditions.
The acquisition will create northern Europe’s largest shipping business with combined 2009 revenue for both companies of almost €1.5bn and a total workforce of 6,200 people. It is not yet known what impact the deal will have on the Northern Ireland operation.
As part of the deal Norfolkline’s parent company AP Moller-Maersk, based in Copenhagen, will take a 31% stake in the company.
Soren-Skou, a member of Maersk’s executive board said: “We have identified both operational and commercial synergies, which will create value for the owners and we look forward to being a major shareholder in DFDS.”
DFDS’ chief executive, Niels Smedegaard has described the deal as a perfect match. He said: “We both serve passengers and freight customers and can now provide transport solutions spanning the whole of northern Europe — from Russia to Ireland.”