The world's largest sea shipping company is based in Switzerland, one of the few European countries without access to the sea.
It is MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, based in Geneva and founded by Italian entrepreneur Gianluigi Aponte.
It is now the largest container shipping company in the world in terms of transport capacity, with over 750 boats and 150,000 employees.
MSC emerged as a surprise winner during the pandemic.
Due to the high demand for electronics and other goods related to lockdowns, the shipping business experienced a peak in activity over the past three years.
Tight supply, caused by covid restrictions, led prices and profits to skyrocket during the same period.
We don't know much about the numbers of MSC, since it's always been secretive about its financials. However, John D. McCown's report shows that the shipping industry as a whole achieved net (after tax) margins of over 40% in 2022.
This is higher than most tech companies!
But why Geneva??
As every great story, MSC's starts with a love story.
Rafaela Diamant Pinas, a young Swiss girl touring Italy, met Gianluigi Aponte while on a ferry cruising between Naples and Capri in the 60s. Aponte was the captain of the ship.
Rafaela's father was a well-known banker in Geneva. He quickly helped Gianluigi find a new job in finance in the city, and likely lent him the seed money to buy his first vessel. This was a dream Aponte couldn't give up on, despite his new life in mountainous Switzerland.
Gianluigi and Rafaela have owned the company fifty-fifty since then, making them among the top 3 richest people in the country.
The future of the shipping industry appears less rosy as the pandemic peak fades. However, while competitors pursue a strategy of vertical integration, effectively competing with their own clients, MSC is still betting on its core business.
The company plans to make huge investments, including purchasing new ships, improving ports' logistical infrastructure, and even breaking into the cargo aviation sector.
The moral of this story?
We're distracted by the latest technological trends, unicorns, and other mythical creatures, that we often overlook more traditional businesses that made Europe the great place it is today!
To know more: NZZ.