Britons buying car movers Hobelmann, Crown Auto Benicia Ports PLC to pay $33 million for leading handler

Port of Baltimore

March 26, 1996|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

Hobelmann Port Services Inc. and its sister company, Crown Auto Processing Inc., which handle the majority of cars shipped through the port of Baltimore, are being sold to a British firm for $33 million.

The acquisition by Benicia Ports PLC includes Hobelmann's Fairfield and Atlantic marine terminals -- two private facilities encompassing more than 100 acres in Southeast Baltimore. Crown Auto leases space at the state-owned Dundalk Marine Terminal. The sale next month is not expected to change Hobelmann's 225-person work force, said William A. Kroh, president and part owner of the privately held companies.

"This is a very positive thing. Everything will stay intact," Mr. Kroh said. operates in California.

The acquisition will give Benicia Ports its first East Coast operations. Hobelmann also operates an auto terminal in Jacksonville, Fla., which it purchased in 1994.

One of the largest independent car handlers on the East Coast, Hobelmann handles more than 200,000 cars a year in Baltimore for major manufacturers, including Chrysler Corp., Honda and Mitsubishi. That is nearly two-thirds of all cars moved through Baltimore, the nation's third-largest car port.

As an automobile port, Baltimore's chief advantage is its proximity to the large consumer market in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.

In 1987, Hobelmann handled 119,000 cars, or more than one third of the port's cars. After doubling its space in 1987, Hobelmann's volume jumped, with the company now handling two-thirds of the port's cars, and the state's public terminals one-third.

Pub Date: 3/26/96

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