The executive boards of Hapag-Lloyd and Hamburg Süd issued a brief statement this morning saying they were investigating if, and under what conditions, a merger of both companies would be of interest. Talks are thought to be at a very early stage, with due diligence just starting, and no guarantees that agreement will be reached to combine the pair. Neither is it clear yet whether this would be a 50:50 merger, or a takeover. If the merger succeeds,they would have a fleet of almost 1.3m teu, pushing the new entity to fourth place behind Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Co and CMA CGM. Evergreen, once number one in the world, would be relegated to fifth position. The two lines have come close to merging in the past but could never agree on terms and who would have ultimate control.