By Ole Mikkelsen
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The foundation that controls Danish oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk (MAERSK-B.CO) is to transfer its stake in the business to a new holding company to boost the group's financial flexibility.
A.P. Moller Foundation is controlled by the Maersk family but is obliged to use all dividends it receives from the shipping group for donations to benefit the public in countries across the Nordic region.
However, by moving the 41.51 percent shareholding and its 51.09 percent of all A.P. Moller-Maersk voting rights into A.P. Moller Holding, it will be able to keep back funds as a cash reserve to be used by the shipping business.
"With the establishment of the holding company the A.P. Moller Foundation wants to secure and strengthen its active ownership and provide financial flexibility and a financial buffer for the whole group," the foundation's chairman Ane Maersk Mc-Kinney Uggla said in a statement on Tuesday.
Sydbank shipping analyst Jacob Pedersen welcomed the move, saying that it will provide better control of cashflow to the foundation.
The group's 2012 dividend payout totaled 5.28 billion Danish crowns ($972 million).
A.P. Moller-Maersk owns Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping company, but is also active in oil drilling and transportation and is behind three supermarket chains with a total of more than 1,200 outlets in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Poland.
A.P. Moller Foundation said that the new holding company will continue to observe the foundation trust deed by supporting cooperation between Denmark and the other Nordic countries, promoting Danish shipping and industry and supporting science and good causes.
Among last year's contributions was a 2.3 billion crown donation for a new opera house in Copenhagen.
($1 = 5.4335 Danish crowns)
(Additional reporting by Shida Chayesteh; Editing by David Goodman)