​Global Ports said the deal to buy NCC would enable it to streamline itsbusinessand capitalize on Russia’s robust container market, which grew 7 percent between January and July, one of the fastest rates globally.

“The result of this transaction will be a bigger, stronger, more profitable company with a very comfortable level of leverage, continuing to pay very tangibledividends,” CEO Alexander Nazarchuk told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Under the deal, Global Ports agreed to pay $291 million in cash, as well as new shares amounting to around 18 percent of its own enlarged share capital, worth around $360 million as of Friday’s close.

Together with the assumed net debt of NCC, which owns container terminals and a dry port in the St Petersburg area, the total value of the deal is worth about $1.56 billion.

The takeover had been in the works for some months.

The deal was backed by Global Ports’ main shareholder, APM Terminals, the ports arm of Danish shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk, which bought a 37.5 percent stake in Global Ports a year ago from holding company N-Trans.

Russiais a very important strategic market with long-term natural growth due to strong fundamentals, natural resources, a growing middle-class and the increased containerization ratio we expect to see,” Kim Fejfer, chief executive of APM, said on the same call.

The containerization level - a ratio of the number of containers per capita - is low inRussiaat 41, compared to 93 forTurkey, a level of 132 for the United States and 168 for the European Union.

The NCC deal makes Global Ports the leading terminal operator in Eastern Europe, with combined throughput of 2.5 million tons and 1 million tons of additional available capacity.

N-Trans, founded by Russian businessmen Nikita Mishin, Konstantin Nikolaev and Andrey Filatov, owned 37.5 percent of Global Ports before the NCC deal. The other 25 percent is in free float. (Reuters)