Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 53 - 2004

 

Banks hesitant over funding new Greek ship orders

---The buoyant picture of the shipping sector, high time-chartering rates and rising prices for used ships have stiffened competition among the 50 or so banks with a base in Greece which finance Greek-owned shipping enterprises.
The development, however, is not necessarily good news for the banks. On the one hand, they cannot ignore the current prominence of Greek shipowners internationally, and on the other, many bankers are reluctant to issue loans given current prices for building and purchasing new ships.
The steep rise in prices for used ships, especially in certain categories such as tankers and boxships, has resulted in many Greek shipowners making profitable sales of older vessels, causing great fluidity in Greek groups. As a result, many of them have proceeded to pre-paying existing banking loans to upgrade their fleets by getting new loans.
As the price of certain vessels has doubled within just 12 months, many bankers feel cornered, as they find it hard to strike a balance between their conservative loan policy toward shipping and increased funding needs, especially as building ships has also become more expensive. Their position is becoming more difficult since many groups arrange quittance of most of their new loans during the first few years of the loan period, noted Dimitris Anagnostopoulos, Greek shipping director at ABN-AMRO Bank (which recently completed 30 years in the Greek market).
"Until today, I had never funded the building of a new ship for the next five years while agreeing to the payback of the greater part (of the loan) in the first few years, but I am doing it now," Anagnostopoulos recently told Lloyd's List.
Banking officials estimate that financing for vessels now on order by Greek shipowners covers 25 percent of the cost. This is bound to intensify competition among banks, particularly since the number of those who have sections specialized in shipping finance have multiplied today.
According to the study section of Petrofin Bank, in early 2004 the portfolio of loans to Greek shipping companies was at $25.5 billion, despite the slowing of their issuing rate from late 2003. By the end of last year nine foreign banks were active in the Greek shipping market (10 of which had a branch in Greece), along with 15 Greek ones and another 11 banks either with a small involvement or in a phase of transition to another owner.
Greek banks are constantly increasing their involvement, with General, Omega and Aspis Bank being the most recent. However, as the data available makes clear, foreign banks with branches in Greece have the largest slice of the market, totaling a loan portfolio of $10 billion.
Source: By Nikos Roussanoglou - Kathimerini, 30 Dec 2004


Shipowners aim to strike while the iron is hot
---For most people with ships 2004 has been a landmark year, bringing huge financial windfalls, and no group has more ships than Greeks.
Long known - although perhaps under-appreciated - as one of the leading earners for its country, Greek shipping has enjoyed one of its best ever years and this has already been reflected in official figures.
The figures are based on all commercial bank transactions related to the shipping industry but are seen as not providing the whole picture in terms of what the country's shipowners are making.
Although no definitive figure can be supplied for an industry where privacy is legendary, analyst Ted Petropoulos of Petrofin surely came close a few weeks ago in estimating that Greek owners are collectively making profits - net of operating expenses and scheduled debt servicing - of $1.5bn.
According to bankers serving the industry, many owners have indeed been taking the opportunity to pre-pay loans, although the appetite for more vessels while markets are buoyant is also a palpable impulse running through many companies.
Recently it was calculated that as many as 350 newbuildings of more than 30m dwt are on order for Greeks, an 18% share of the world orderbook that is in keeping with the nation's portion of the existing world fleet.
The scale of building would surely be even greater if shipyards were not full until 2008, a squeeze in berth capacity that has caused fresh Greek ordering to tail off in the last few months.
While the pace of newbuilding contracts may have waned in the second half of the year, other kinds of deal have shown that leading Greek shipowners are determined to surf the boom conditions to expand and position themselves in the vanguard of tomorrow's markets.
Restis-controlled First Financial won the race - against other Greeks and international bidders - to acquire 32 bulkers from Malaysian International Shipping Corp, for a reported $740m. That was a mere few days after confirmation of Peter Georgiopoulos' successful $420m offer for a 16-bulker fleet being sold by China's Cofco.
On the tanker side, Greek-linked companies have also been cast as the quarry this year as consolidation in the sector starts to really bite. Overseas Shipholding Group appears to have won the hand of Athens-based Stelmar with its recent $48 per share offer, while Frontline's interest in Georgiopoulos-headed Genmar also hogged a share of late 2004 headlines.
But recent weeks have also seen Dynacom Tankers gobbling up two Saudi Aramco VLCCs and eight Teekay aframaxes for a reported $316m expansion.
The company has already splashed out heavily on newbuildings in the last few years and is one of a pioneering trio of Greek owners with LNG tonnage on order.
The notion of striking while the iron is hot has also extended to the capital markets, with a secondary offering by Excel Maritime and the recent initial public offering in the over-the-counter market by Angeliki Frangou's International Shipping Enterprises.
A blind pool fund aimed primarily at the dry bulk sector, it raised about $180m that may be invested over the next two years.
While there will be many in the rich pageant of Greek shipping that continue more cautiously, with a fair amount of profit-taking while vessel values are high, it is sure that Greeks will figure prominently in big deals, in both the public and private markets, during the next 12 months as well.
Source: www.lloydslist.com, By Nigel Lowry- Thursday December 30 2004


Excel Maritime Carriers appoints Eleftherios Papatrifon as CFO
---PIRAEUS, Greece, Dec. 30, Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd. announced today that it has appointed Eleftherios A. Papatrifon, 35, as its Chief Financial Officer effective as of January 1, 2005. Mr. Papatrifon succeeds Christopher Thomas, 45, who is expected to remain as a Director of Excel Maritime, and who will assist in an orderly transition.
Mr. Papatrifon joins the Company from Geniki Bank of Greece, a subsidiary of Societe Generale, where he served as Head of Investment Banking. He brings fifteen years of experience in Corporate Finance and Asset Management, having previously served as a portfolio manager for The Prudential Insurance Company of America, as well as increasingly responsible positions in the banking and financial services sectors in Greece. He holds both a BBA and an MBA from Baruch College of the City University of New York and is a member of the CFA Institute and a CFA charter holder.
Excel Maritime Chief Executive Officer Christopher Georgakis commented, "We are very pleased that Lefteris will be joining us here in Piraeus. We believe that his extensive financial sector expertise and his experience on both the buy side and the corporate finance side of the investment management industry will be very helpful to us."
About Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd
The Company is an owner and operator of dry bulk carriers and a provider of worldwide seaborne transportation services for dry bulk cargo. This includes commodities such as iron ore, coal, grains, as well as bauxite, fertilizers and steel products. The Company currently owns and operates a fleet of two cape-size bulk carriers, two handymax bulk carriers and one handysize bulk carrier. An additional three handymax bulk carriers and two panamax bulk carriers will be delivered soon, which, together with the disposal of one older handymax carrier will increase the Company's fleet to nine ships representing a total carrying capacity of 585,589 dwt. The Company was incorporated in 1988 under the laws of Liberia.
Forward Looking Statement
This press release contains forward-looking statements (as defined in Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended) concerning future events and the Company's operations, performance and financial conditions, including, in particular, statements regarding: TCE rates in the near term; time charter and spot or voyage charter revenues; net operating days; dry bulk carrier supply and demand; supply and demand for commodities; expectations as to funding the Company's future capital requirements; future capital expenditures; the Company's growth strategy and measures to implement such strategy; changes in environmental, safety and other regulations affecting the shipping industry; cost savings and other benefits. Words such as "expects," "intends," "plans," "believes," "anticipates," "hopes," "estimates," and variations of such words and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward- looking statements are reasonable, no assurance can be given that such expectations will prove to have been correct. These statements involve known and unknown risks and are based upon a number of assumptions and estimates which are inherently subject to significant uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are beyond the control of the Company. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially include, but are not limited to: changes in production of or demand for commodities, either generally or in particular regions; the cyclical nature of the shipping industry and its dependence on commodities and bulk markets; the supply of vessels available to meet the demand for transportation of commodities; greater than anticipated levels of dry bulk carrier newbuilding orders or less than anticipated rates of dry bulk carrier scrapping; changes in trading patterns significantly impacting overall dry bulk carrier tonnage requirements; competitive factors in the market in which the Company operates; risks associated with operations outside the United States; and other factors listed from time to time in the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Company expressly disclaims any obligations or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward- looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Company's expectations with respect thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any statement is based.
Contact: Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd.; or Christopher Georgakis, CEO of Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd, +30 210 45 98 692, excel@otenet.gr
Source: press.arrivenet.com, Distribution Source : PRNewswire, Date : Thursday - December 30, 2004


Cantor Fitzgerald hire Anthony Argyropoulos
---Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P., a leading financial services provider to the institutional equity and fixed income markets, today announced the appointment of Anthony Argyropoulos as a managing director of the investment banking group, effective immediately. In this role, Mr. Argyropoulos will be wholly responsible for the transportation division, tapping his 12 years of experience within the shipping industry.
Cantor Fitzgerald recently established its reputation in this industry by lead managing an initial public offering and two follow-on equity transactions raising $350 million in 2004.
"This is an exciting time for the investment banking group," said Marc Blazer, Head of Investment Banking. "Anthony's investment banking experience, specific to the transportation industry, is unmatched. He will be a valuable asset to the group and a benchmark for additional executives we will draw on as we aggressively expand the group to continue meeting the needs of Cantor Fitzgerald's customers worldwide."
Prior to joining Cantor Fitzgerald, Mr. Argyropoulos served as a managing director at an affiliate of DVB Bank and as a senior vice president with Jefferies & Co. During his tenure, Mr. Argyropoulos focused on the transportation industry and was instrumental in raising $850 million in public equity securities, $600 million in high yield notes, advising on $1.5 billion in merger and acquisitions as well as the restructuring of $1.0 billion in debt securities representing debtors and creditors.
"I am thrilled with the opportunities provided at Cantor Fitzgerald as the investment banking division continues growing," said Anthony Argyropoulos. "My experience in the transportation field, coupled with the global distribution and advisory capabilities of Cantor, allows us to offer clients a unique breadth and depth of industry and capital markets knowledge, enabling us to better serve their needs."
"Our clients rely on world-class expertise in financial engineering, institutional investor relationships and Cantor's offering of innovative financing solutions and unmatched transaction execution," said Phil Marber, Chief Executive Officer and President of Cantor Fitzgerald's Institutional Equities Group.
"Our investment banking team specializes in tailoring efficient and cost-effective solutions for companies, whether tapping the capital markets to issue or buy-back debt or equity securities, restructuring balance sheets or seeking acquisition or disposition candidates. The recent expansion of our investment banking group's capabilities will continue to strategically enhance Cantor's business going forward," said Mr. Marber.
About Cantor Fitzgerald
Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P. is a leading financial services provider that offers clients an array of financial products and services in the equity and fixed income capital markets. These products and services include sales and trading, investment banking, asset management market commentary and market data. For more than 50 years, Cantor Fitzgerald, a proven and resilient leader, has been committed to delivering a unique brand of unparalleled trading and distribution services, product expertise, innovative technology and customer service to its clients around the world. This commitment also extends to numerous philanthropic endeavors, including the firm's pledge to donate 25% of the profits it would otherwise distribute to its partners until 2006 to benefit the families of the employees lost on September 11, 2001. For more information, please visit www.cantor.com.
Contacts: Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P. Mike Geller, 212-610-2430, mgeller@cantor.com
Source: http://home.businesswire.com, NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 30, 2004-


UPDATE 1-Balkan states give green light to oil pipeline
---SOFIA, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Bulgaria, Albania and Macedonia gave political support on Tuesday to a $1.2 billion private trans-Balkan oil pipeline that will allow Russian and Caspian crude to avoid congested Turkish waters, officials said.
Representatives from the three small Balkan states signed a declaration giving the green light to the U.S.-registered Albanian Macedonian Bulgarian Oil Corporation (AMBO) to launch the 912-km (567-mile) pipeline between Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Bourgas to Vlore, a city on Albania's Adriatic coast.
"This is one of the most important infrastructure projects for regional, EU, and Euro-Atlantic integration for the western Balkans," Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano told reporters.
The long-delayed underground line, expected to begin operation in early 2008, will be able to move up to 750,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).
Tankers ferrying oil to the Mediterranean and further west are currently subject to frequent and costly delays as they travel through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.
AMBO said it had already secured some $900 million from the U.S. government development agency Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), U.S. Eximbank, and through a syndicated loan arranged by Credit Suisse First Boston.
The remaining 25 percent of the funding will be raised by attracting private equity investors and a new company, which will operate the pipeline on behalf of the shareholders in one year's time, said AMBO President Ted Ferguson.
Oil giants operating in the Caspian region like ChevronTexaco, Exxon Mobil and British Petroleum, have long sought alternative routes to the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.
The pipeline was first discussed in 1994, but it was delayed due to a lack of political backing by the countries involved.
The construction of the pipeline, expected to start in a year, will not preclude another pipeline to carry Russia oil from Bulgaria's Bourgas to the northeastern Greek port of Alexandroupolis which is now under discussion.
"We all know that Bosphorus will sooner or later reach a point of saturation, so any bypass will be welcome... The two projects are equally important," Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg said.
That pipeline, a 256-km (159 miles) route with capacity of 700,000 bpd, should be built and run jointly by Bulgaria, Russia and Greece, but so far the three countries have failed to reach agreement on how to structure the 700 million euro ($954.7 million) project.
Source: www.reuters.co.uk,Tue Dec 28, 2004 12:42 PM GMT


Minister expects agreement on Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline by Spring
---The agreement between Greece, Russia and Bulgaria regarding the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline is expected to be signed by Spring 2005, Deputy Development Minister Yiorgos Salagoudis said on Thursday during a meeting with journalists in Thessaloniki. The trilateral agreement was supposed to have been signed December 7, 2004, but due to delays on Russia's part was postponed.
The Russian side is now expected to pick a new time and place for signing of the agreement. According to Salagoudis, the delay might be beneficial for Russia, allowing enough time for the merger between Gazprom and Rosneft to be completed and creating one company that Russia may promote to take on the role of project leader.
Furthermore, Salagoudis did not seem concerned with the recent decision of Bulgaria, Albania and FYROM to construct an intra-Balkan pipeline that will transport Russian oil from Burgas to Albania via FYROM. This pipeline, which would bypass Greece and in the construction of which US companies would also be involved, is not a direct threat to the pipeline Greece is interested in, since it is too costly. Salagoudis said that the inter-Balkan pipeline will cost double the amount (around $1.5bn - $1.6bn) of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline which is estimated at $700 million. Additionally, the cost of transporting the oil through the inter-Balkan pipeline is estimated at $18 per ton compared with $5 per ton through the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline.
Source: http://www.ana.gr, 2 Jan 04


Forget OPEC. The next cartel may export drinking water.
---Already, companies are locking up resources and selling abroad.
Some call him crazy, others, a genius - but if Terry Spragg is anything, he's a believer that filling up giant ocean-going bags with fresh water and towing them to water-poor regions can slake the thirst of nations and help deliver world peace.
If that seems far-fetched, consider that less than 2.5 percent of the world's water is fresh. That vital resource is threatened by pollution, waterborne disease, and shifts in rain patterns caused by global warming, recent studies show. All of which, in some eyes, leaves the world on the verge of a scramble by private companies and countries vying for rights to available water.
Forget OPEC. Some experts say the next cartel will be an organization of water-exporting countries. Others see more danger in local privatization of water, which could restrict access to the poor within nations.
"Water is blue gold, it's terribly precious," says Maude Barlow, who chairs for the Council of Canadians, an Ottawa-based citizens' watchdog. "Not too far in the future, we're going to see a move to surround and commodify the world's fresh water. Just as they've divvied up the world's oil, in the coming century there's going to be a grab."
Signs of corporate interest are already popping up. Pipelines for bulk water shipments are reported under consideration between Scotland and water-short England. Similar plans exist for Turkey to pipe water to central Europe and markets in Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, and Malta, Ms. Barlow says.
Mr. Spragg's water bags are also gaining attention. The California entrepreneur is trying to persuade the White House to broker a Middle East peace deal by first filling 20 or 30 "Spragg bags" with fresh water in Turkey and floating them to Palestinians and Israelis. He claims the cost to transport them a few hundred miles would be less than a penny a gallon.
It's not as wild-eyed as it sounds. In the late 1990s, Aquarius Water Transportation became the first company to tow bags of fresh water for export, delivering commercial bulk quantities to the Greek Islands. In 2000, another company, Nordic Water Supply, began using 5 million gallon bags - 10 times as big as the original Aquarius containers - to float water from Turkey to northern Cyprus.
Turkey also seems willing to sell water to Israel, and the two are debating price and delivery methods.
"Water is a critical issue over there," Spragg says. "If these two warring groups see those big water bags sitting off their coast, they'll see they're going to be water independent. It would be a huge thing for them."
Other exporters are using more conventional transport.
"It is impossible to overestimate the importance of pure water supply," said A. Fred Paley, president of Global H2O Resources, in a statement. "Many communities in over 50 counties throughout the world are suffering needlessly because water is either insufficient or polluted or may not exist at all."
His Vancouver, British Columbia, company says it has acquired exclusive rights to 4.8 billion gallons of glacier water a year for 30 years under a license granted by Alaska and the city of Sitka. So far, Global has been selling premium bottled "glacier-fed water" - but is eyeing bulk shipments to Asia and the Middle East. In September, the company announced it had been approved to build a loading pier in Sitka, capable of handling 50,000-ton ships.
Bottled water presents another challenge. Business is booming: Sales have soared to $50 billion worldwide in the past decade and are still growing about 10 percent a year, estimates Peter Gleick, coauthor of "The World's Water," a biennial report released last month on the state of the world's fresh water. Just 10 nations guzzled nearly 29 billion gallons of bottled water in 2003, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp.
The irony, as Dr. Gleick sees it, is that much of the growth in bottled water sales is occurring in developing nations. China's consumption, for example, nearly quadrupled between 1997 and 2002 - to 2.6 billion gallons, according to Beverage Marketing estimates. For that same amount of money, clean tap water could be provided for all those who don't have it, he says.
Yet, there are signs that some developing nations may opt not to spend the millions of dollars required to build an infrastructure for fresh tap water, Gleick says.
Instead, they may rely on the private sector, which is bringing clean water more quickly to needy areas than public systems are - albeit at a much higher price. Lack of access to clean drinking water threatens the lives of some 35 million people in the coming decade, he adds.
"I'm less worried about a cartel situation, as we have with oil, than about local conflicts over private manipulation of resources," Gleick says. He points to disputes over groundwater, particularly in the United States, between bottled-water companies and local residents.
The bottled-water industry counters that it's being targeted unfairly. "Dr. Gleick's focus ... singles out the bottled-water industry from among the thousands of industrial water users for scrutiny," said Stephen Kay, vice president of the International Bottled Water Association, in a statement last month. "That will do nothing to protect and preserve renewable groundwater resources."
It's unlikely the controversy will go away soon. "Where water is in short supply, people are desperate and will do anything for it," says Barlow of the Council of Canadians. "So we see an evolving merging of different interests - bottled water companies, private municipal service providers, shipping companies, and pipeline companies will start moving water in bulk."
For these reasons Barlow's group, along with Public Citizen, the Washington-based advocacy group, and other environmental and nongovernmental organizations, are pushing the United Nations to designate access to water as a human right. That would help prevent price-gouging of the poor by for-profit entities, she says.
Source: From the December 30, 2004 edition, www.csmonitor.com, By Mark Clayton | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor,