SEOUL/MILAN – A South Korean court approved on Tuesday Italy's Fincantieri as the preferred bidder to buy shipbuilder STX France, helping Fincantieri move closer to a deal that could boost its position in the cruise shipbuilding market.
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The Seoul court spokesman, who announced the decision on Tuesday, declined to give further details on the situation, while a Fincantieri spokesman also declined to comment.
The sale of STX France, which specializes in building cruise ships and is profitable, forms part of the broader sale of businesses from the demise of the South Korean STX shipbuilding group.
Italy's 230-year old Fincantieri makes vessels ranging from cruise ships and luxury yachts, to military aircraft carriers.
In 2015, the company - formerly wholly owned by the Italian state - recorded sales of 4.2 billion euros ($4.4 billion) and it debuted on the Milan stock exchange in 2014.
Shares in the company were up 2.5 percent at 0.49 euros by 1105 GMT (6:05 a.m. ET).��
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"The deal would definitively strengthen Fincantieri's leadership position in the cruise segment and in the medium-long term we believe it could also enhance the group's fundamentals," Banca IMI analysts wrote in a research note last week.��
Kepler Cheuvreux has also said the acquisition would raise Fincantieri's market share in the cruise shipbuilding segment to around 60 percent from 40-45 percent.
The holiday cruises industry has recently shown some signs of resilience to headwinds such as the Zika virus scare that deterred travelers and currency volatility, with Royal Caribbean Cruises in October expressing confidence over meeting its 2017 profit forecast.
Fincantieri has declined to comment on the price it offered for STX France. Banca IMI has previously said it expected Fincantieri to offer below 100 million euros for the asset.
France holds a 33 percent minority stake in STX France, which delivered last year the largest passenger ship ever built, called the 'Harmony of the Seas'.
The French government said in October it was not planning to take a majority stake in STX France, but would retain its minority blocking stake and added it expected a say in any ownership change.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Eliza Anzolin; Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)