France’s CMA CGM is splashing out $594m on nine resale container ship newbuildings under construction at shipyards in South Korea and China.

Market sources said the cash-rich liner giant is in advanced talks with Belgian owner Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB) about acquiring six 6,000-teu ships, and an unnamed owner for three 1,800-teu vessels.

Sources said the 6,000-teu newbuildings are under construction at China’s Qingdao Yangfan Shipbuilding, while the 1,800-teu ships are being built by Ulsan-based Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD).

CMA CGM said it does not comment on speculation, and Delphis — a division of CMB — could not be reached for comment.

Sources said the unnamed owner of the feeder ships is set to pocket a tidy profit of about $33m — selling the ships for $42m each after ordering them last year for about $31m apiece.

Clarksons’ Shipping Intelligence Network shows HMD has 23 newbuildings of 1,800 teu each on its orderbook to be delivered this year and in 2023.

The South Korean shipyard is building 12 vessels for Sinokor Merchant Marine, six LNG-ready ships for Capital Maritime & Trading, three LNG-ready newbuildings for an unnamed owner and one each for domestic owners Pan Continental Shipping and Dong Jin Shipping.

Sources said Delphis is poised to make more than $168m if it sells the 6,000-teu newbuildings to CMA CGM for $78m per ship, which is the figure being discussed.

Delphis is said to have paid less than $50m each for the 40-metre beam ice-class IA notation boxships that are fitted with 1,150 reefer plugs. The container ships were reported to have a nominal capacity of 5,890 teu.

The sale price of $78m per ship appears to be substantially lower than newbuilding values listed by VesselsValue. The online database shows the market value of the first 6,000-teu container ship newbuilding slated for delivery in June 2023 to be $101.66m, while the sixth vessel scheduled for September 2024is listed at $76.15m.

Shipbuilding experts said “reborn” Qingdao Yangfan would take a big loss on constructing Delphis’ container ships as the yard had underquoted.

Delphis ordered the 6,000-teu newbuildings in late 2020, before the surge in steel plate cost and shipbuilding materials.

Two weeks ago, CMA CGM was reported to have acquired four 1,868-teu container ships from German owner Vega Reederei for about $44.5m each.

Vega declined to comment on the deal. But if the sale is confirmed, the company would be making a hefty profit from the quartet, as the vessels were ordered last year at a time when similar ships were reported to be costing about $23m each.

Zhejiang-based Yangfan Group is constructing the 1,868-teu newbuildings. The shipyard is slated to deliver them in the last quarter of this year.