Danish shipping and oil group A. P. Moller-Maersk could be split up into separate companies, its chairman said on Thursday after naming Soren Skou, the head of its container business, as chief executive.
Maersk shares rose more than 10 percent on the news with investors speculating on a break-up of the company and seeing the appointment as a sign of a more profound restructuring.
"The question is whether we should be a large group, or whether we should be a number of independent companies," Chairman Michael Pram Rasmussen told Danish online media Finans.
He was speaking after company veteran Skou, 51, was appointed to replace Nils Smedegaard Andersen as group chief executive. Andersen had been in the job since 2007.
Skou will begin in his new role on July 1, while remaining the head of Maersk Line, the company said in a statement. Andersen will leave the group, it said.
The board of directors had told Skou to "investigate the strategic and structural options to further increase agility and synergies." It plans to report on its progress by the end of the third quarter of the year.
The change comes just days after the grandson of Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, who transformed the shipping group into an international conglomerate, was appointed chief executive of the holding company behind the group.
Maersk Line is fighting to remain the world's leading container shipping carrier as a wave of mergers and acquisitions, particularly in Asia, creates new challengers trying to grab a bigger share of a depressed market.
Maersk revenue stood at $40 billion last year, with its shipping business of more than 600 container vessels as its biggest.
The oil division, which produced 312,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent last year, has also been hit by weak energy markets..
The company is also active in oil drilling, operates terminals and has a large fleet of tankers and other marine services.
"The board wants a change of strategy for the group. There has probably been some disagreements about that, and I think that's clear from the statement," said Michael Friis Jorgensen, analyst at Alm. Brand Bank in Copenhagen.
Skou has been with A.P. Moller-Maersk for 33 years, becoming a member of the executive board in 2006 and appointed CEO of Maersk Line in 2012.
The change could open new possibilities for the group which has faced record low shipping rates for its container business and a more than 60 percent drop in oil prices.
"Will they delist, enter new business areas, focus investments further away from the oil business?," said Jorgensen, who expects the management to update investors on such questions at it Capital Markets Day in September.