German firm Deutsche Bank announced (March 20, 2007) that its US-based real estate & Infrastructure investment arm, RREEF Alternative Investments, had agreed to acquire the privately held Maher Terminals.

Maher Terminals is the largest container operator at the Port of New York and New Jersey. According to press reports under the terms of the deal, the terminal company will retain the Maher name. Also brothers Brian and Basil Maher, sons of the company’s founder, will remain in place in the company’s top management positions. The deal also provides for “a sharing bonus” to be distributed among Maher’s 246 employees.

Deutsche Bank said the RREEF Alternative Investments unit had agreed to acquire Maher Terminals as part of its growing infrastructure investment portfolio. “We believe Maher Terminals represents the best assets combined with the very best management team in the industry,” says David Kerr, managing director and portfolio manager with RREEF, in a statement.

In 2006, the terminal handled about 1.2 million containers, or approximately, 45% of the throughput of the Port of New York/New Jersey.

In a release, CEO Brian Maher says, “As the environment changes in the port industry, RREEF provides Maher increased ability to compete on a global level. Their vision of growth and value creation will lead us in the future as we grow our existing terminal businesses and compete for additional capacity in the North American market.”

A year and half ago, Maher said that it was seeking a financial partner. This came after a $450 million renovation on the terminal that was accomplished while the terminal remained working. The company also simultaneously began work on a new terminal project in Prince Rupert BC. In a release, Brian Maher said, ‘We are looking for a strategic partner who can help us grow.’ However, in the ensuing time Dubai-based Dubai Ports World bought P&O Ports and under fire sold the US assets of P&O ports to insurer AIG. This sale along with purchases by the Toronto Teachers’ Pension Fund of Hong Kong based OOCL’s terminal business and Australian-based Macquarie’s purchases of a portion of Hanjin’s terminal business and the Port of Halifax’s Halterm, and Hapag Lloyd’s sale of the Montreal Gateway to Morgan Stanley indicated a sea change in the global terminal industry. Maher was one of the few real terminal investment targets in the US and speculation began last December if the search for capital had led to the prospect of an outright sale.

The sale still faces multiple approvals before it can be finalized. The US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment has to approve it, related to security issues. The Port Authority of NY/NJ, which owns the land, must also okay the deal. (Wire services and press reports)