ARCHIV - 30.03.2023, Hamburg: Ein Containerschiff der Reederei Maersk wird am Eurogate Container Terminal abgefertigt. (zu dpa: «Maersk: Bis zu 20 Prozent weniger Kapazität wegen Lage im Roten Meer») Foto: Marcus Brandt/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++ ( DPA / Marcus Brandt)

Posts falsely claim Nigeria's announcement of trade deal sank shipping giant Maersk's stock

The Nigerian government announced in late April that Danish shipping giant Maersk would invest $600 million in the country. However, social media users claimed that Maersk was unaware of the plan and the company’s market value plunged after the news broke. But AFP Fact Check found that Maersk’s stock rose a day following the announcement. Moreover, while the company initially declined to comment – fuelling media speculation that the deal hadn’t been inked – Maersk later confirmed that it planned to invest more than $500 million in Nigeria, having already spent about $115 million. 

“Maersk lost almost 4% of their market capitalization in less than 12 hours after Tinubu's administration falsely announced that the company was going to invest $600 million in Nigeria,” reads an X post published on April 30, 2024, by Godswill Nwankwo, a self-proclaimed politician and supporter of opposition leader Peter Obi.

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A screenshot of the false X post, taken on May 6, 2024

His comments came a day after Nigeria announced that Maersk would invest $600 million in its operations in Africa’s largest democracy (archived here). 

The post features a screenshot of the closing price of Maersk stock value on April 29, 2024. A “Yahoo Finance” watermark can be seen on the screenshot. 

Nwankwo wrote that the “false announcement” forced the “global market” to “finally price Nigeria as a junk asset class”.

His timeline on X shows frequent criticism of Nigerian President Bola Tinubu while praising the Labour Party’s Obi. 

Media controversy 

The investment deal in question was sealed after Maersk chairman Robert Maersk Uggla and Tinubu met on the sidelines at a World Economic Forum gathering in Riyadh, Nigerian presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngelale told AFP on April 28. 

A day after the announcement, UK-based shipping publication Lloyd’s List published a story saying that the $600-million investment “appears to be news to Maersk” (archived here). 

According to the article, the agreement “appears to be less solid than the government initially claimed”. 

Although Maersk had confirmed that Uggla “discussed the investment” with Tinubu in Saudi Arabia, it was not  “able to comment on any investment talks”.

Nigerian journalist Rotus Oddiri said Maersk shared the same statement with him (archived here). 

 

Although Maersk did not categorically deny news about the financial deal, several Nigerian news outlets reported  (see here, here, here and here) that the government had jumped the gun. 

The controversy gained more traction after Tinubu’s media adviser Bayo Onanuga deleted his X post shortly after the announcement of the agreement. 

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A screenshot shows the X post deleted by Tinubu''s spokesman Bayo Onanuga

Another Tinubu adviser, Dada Olusegun, blamed the media for creating the controversy, noting that “Maersk hasn't contradicted or denied the Federal Government of Nigeria's statements” (archived here).

The $600 million plan

On February 9, 2024, Nigeria’s trade minister published a video of Maerks's APM Terminals CEO Keith Svendsen talking about his company’s plan to invest “half a billion dollars” in Nigeria. This followed the recent conclusion of a $100-million project  (archived here) at the West Africa Container Terminal in the southern Rivers state.

Nigeria’s Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy also issued a press statement about Svendsen pledging a $500-million investment (archived here). 

 

On May 3, 2024, the CEO confirmed plans to invest $500 million in Nigeria on his LinkedIn account (archived here). He also shared a link to an article discussing the proposal (archived here).

“I earlier this year publicly told about the proposal to invest more than $500 million that we have discussed with the President Tinubu both in February and which we further elaborated in late April,” the report quoted Svendsen as saying. 

Stock performance

The Maersk stock closed at 9,940 Danish Krone ($1,430) on April 26 – two days before the Nigerian government announced the investment deal. 

On April 29, it opened at 10,122 DK, spiking to a day's high of 10,329.71 DK before closing at 10,195 DK.

The stock dipped further as Maersk prepared to release its end-of-month Q1 report. 

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Yahoo! Finance’s data show the values of Maersk shares before and after Nigeria’s announcement

As  AFP reported, the net profit for the first quarter of 2024 sank by 13 percent on the back of rising costly attacks on the Red Sea route (archived here)

Moreover, Yahoo! Finance data show that Maersk shares were at their highest on April 29 since the beginning of March. 

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Yahoo! Finance’s data show the values of Maersk shares between March 1 and April 30

Sovereign rating

Nwankwo said of the country's sovereign debt rating: “The global market has finally priced Nigeria as a junk asset class.”

However, Nigeria has long been considered a speculative investment by the main rating agencies, meaning it holds particular risk for investors (archived here). Bonds issued by countries in the same category as Nigeria, or worse, are said to be “junk”.  

However, Fitch Ratings revised the country’s outlook from “stable” to “positive” on May 3, 2024 (archived here), a reflection of Tinubu’s reforms since taking office a year ago, the agency said.

Tinubu ended a costly fuel subsidy immediately after his inauguration (archived here) and liberalised foreign exchange controls soon after.

“The positive outlook partly reflects reforms over the last year to support the restoration of macroeconomic stability and enhance policy coherence and credibility,” Fitch added. 

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