SEJONG-- South Korea's antitrust watchdog on Tuesday ordered Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipper, and its smaller German rival Hamburg Sud to withdraw from their alliances with other firms on some routes if they want to go ahead with their proposed merger.

In October last year, Maersk proposed a merger with Hamburg Sud, the seventh-largest shipping line, for a reported US$4 billion.

The two firms sought a review for their proposed merger from the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) in April.

Under the current regulations, a foreign-based firm is required to get an approval from a proposed merger if its annual sales here tops 20 billion won ($18.4 million).

The FTC said Hamburg Sud's shipping alliances with other rivals on Asian, South American and other routes could harm fair competition if it is merged with Maersk Line.

According to the corporate watchdog, the German shipping firm has formed alliances with five shippers on such routes.

The FTC said Hamburg Sud's shipping alliances could have the effect of creating a mega shipping line through the proposed merger.

It ordered Hamburg Sud to end or not to renew its alliances with other firms.

Source: Yonhap News Agency