Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 01 - 2004
---THE Greek government today doubled its aid for Asian countries hit by tidal waves two weeks ago, as an all-time record telethon raised more than 15 million euro ($26.02 million), with more expected.
The ongoing telethon had collected nearly 15,320,000 euro ($26.57 million) by 3am AEDT in bank deposits, text messages and aid pledges over the phone, said its organiser ERT, Greece's state-run radio and television broadcaster.
It included 1 million euro ($1.73 million) pledged by the Greek government, which had initially offered the Maldives and Sri Lanka 300,000 euro ($520,336).
The foreign ministry had spent another 700,000 euro ($1.21 million) on tents, medicine and a mission of rescue and aid workers sent to the area in two military aircraft.
The ministry said it was also chartering a cruise liner to take 800 tonnes of aid to Sri Lanka and act as a floating hospital when it arrived.
The ship, a free loan by Majestic International Cruises, would leave the port of Piraeus on January 17, carrying aid worth 5.5 million euro ($9.54 million) collected by national charities and local authorities.
"It is moving that Greek citizens gave so much money. After a meeting with Prime Minister (Costas Karamanlis), the government decided to offer 1 million euro ($1.73 million) extra," Finance and Economy Minister Yiorgos Alogoskoufis told reporters.
The telethon, initially set to last until midnight Tuesday local time, was extended until early today in view of the steady stream of donations from Greeks familiar with the kind of massive earthquake that stirred up the January 26 tsunamis.
The total sum raised is expected to well exceed the 20 million euro ($34.69 million) mark - or an average of 2 euro ($3.47) from each of the country's 11 million inhabitants - with a televised auction of personal belongings from politicians and celebrated athletes later in the day.
"We have staged various telethons in the past, but never before was so much money collected," said Panayiotis Tsolias, a spokesman for public television NET broadcasting the fund-raiser.
The Greek government will collect and then disburse the telethon funds to the governments of the quake-hit areas, international organisations or use them directly to buy medicine, tents and food.
Seven Greek nationals are missing in the southern Asian region where the tsunamis hit, although none have been confirmed among the more than 146,000 dead.
Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos offered a private pen to be put up for auction. Personal belongings of Greek Olympic sailing champion Sophia Bekatorou and weightlifting legend Akakios Kakhiasvilis will also come under the hammer.
And Argentine football veteran Juan Ramon Rocha, a naturalised Greek, said he will donate an FC Barcelona football shirt personally signed by the Spanish team's Brazilian super star Ronaldinho.
Source: www.heraldsun.news.com.au, From correspondents in Athens, 06jan05
Greek Shipowners Plan Share Sales, Bet on Rates Rally (Update1)
---Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Greek shipping companies First Financial Corp., Golden Energy Management SA and Drytank SA may sell shares to finance new vessels, betting that demand from China will boost freight rates after a slump since November.
``Our company is very profitable at the moment, so we're exploring the possibility of going public,'' Kostas Koutsoubelis, finance director of First Financial, said in an interview. The company, controlled by the Restis family in Athens, values its 63- ship fleet at $750 million.
The Bloomberg Tanker Index of seven shipping companies is down 1.9 percent this year, after an 82 percent gain in 2004 that made it the third-best performer of the 480 industry indexes ranked by Bloomberg. Greece is home to about 900 shipping companies, according to the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping in Athens. Four are publicly traded.
``The appetite for shipping stocks is very strong at the moment,'' said Theodore Petropoulos, co-managing director of Athens-based consultant Petrofin SA. Sellers ``will probably use the money to buy more ships or fund acquisitions.''
First Financial in November bought 32 dry-bulk vessels, used to haul coal, iron ore and grain, from Malaysian International Shipping Corp. for $740 million.
Freight rates for oil tankers from the Persian Gulf have plunged almost 75 percent from November's records as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to cut production. The Baltic Dry Index, measuring the cost to ship dry- bulk commodities, has slumped by almost a third from a record 6208 points on Dec. 6, according to the Baltic Exchange in London.
``We are not so positive about shipping stocks in the short term given how much freight rates have fallen,'' Jonas Andreasson, who helps oversee about $40 million at Tufton Oceanic, said by phone from London. ``In the long term, we are much more positive based on demand from both China and India.''
Average earnings for 2 million-barrel oil tankers on the benchmark routes between the Persian Gulf and Asia may fall by a third to $66,250 a day this year, according to a survey of eight analysts by Bloomberg last month. That's still more than double what Bermuda-based Frontline Ltd., the world's biggest fuel- tanker company, needs to break even on its 35 largest tankers.
For dry-bulk ships, average earnings for a benchmark Capesize vessel that carries as much as 175,000 metric tons of cargo may fall by a quarter to $52,500 a day in 2005, according to a Bloomberg survey. The average break-even rate for a modern vessel is about $15,000 a day, according to analysts' estimates.
``Shipowners will likely still be reaping near-peak profits,'' even as rates decline, Jonathan Chappell, shipping analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a Jan. 4 note.
Athens-based Golden Energy, which manages Restis Group's six oil tankers, may sell shares in six months, Director Kyriacos Zarvanos said in November. George Economou, founder of Drytank, said the operator of 30 oil and dry-bulk vessels plans to offer shares ``very soon.''
``Shipping is the best business to be in right now,'' Economou said in an interview from Athens. He didn't elaborate.
At least seven shipping companies, including Shanghai-based China Shipping Container Lines Co., China's second-largest, and Bermuda-based Arlington Tankers Ltd., sold shares for the first time in 2004 on exchanges in the U.S., Hong Kong and Oslo.
Other shipowners outside Greece such as Oslo's Wilson Eurocarriers and IMC Shipping in Singapore are planning share sales this year, according to ship finance magazine Marine Money.
Tsakos Energy Navigation Ltd., based in Athens and listed in both New York Stock and Oslo, surged 94 percent in value last year to $707 million. Athens-based Top Tankers Inc. climbed 53 percent from its July 22 debut, valuing the company at $430 million. The S&P 500, by comparison, rose 9 percent and Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 50 added 4.3 percent.
Greek shipowners operate about a fifth of the world's vessels by capacity, with 3,000 carriers totaling 149 million deadweight tons, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimated last year. Athens-based Anangel-American Shipholdings Ltd. exited the Nasdaq in 2002 after the founding Angelicoussis family bought all the companies' shares.
``Some Greek owners don't have the culture to respond to the high demands of investors and analysts,'' Nikolas Tsakos, the 41- year-old president and chief executive of Tsakos Energy, said in an interview at the company's headquarters. ``They don't know what they are up against by going public.''
The ones that sold stock in 2004 are using the proceeds to expand. Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd., a Bermuda-based company with Greek management, raised about $51.8 million in December by selling 2.2 million shares on the American Stock Exchange. Excel bought three dry-bulk vessels for delivery next year.
``We had an exceptionally good response to the offering,'' Excel Chief Executive Christopher Georgakis said in an interview from Piraeus, Greece. ``There's no other industry right now that gives the returns that shipping does.''
Top Tankers, which sold $275 million in stock in two offerings last year, plans to more than double its fleet to as many as 50 ships in a year, Chief Executive Evangelos Pistiolis said in an interview on Dec. 2. Golden Energy expects to take delivery of six vessels next year, Zarvanos said.
``The shipping industry has plenty of capital right now, but it's not in every Greek shipowners' pockets,'' Petrofin's Petropoulos said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Saijel Kishan in London at at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: By Saijel Kishan, Last Updated: January 6, 2005 22:18 EST
Greek spending sets new record
---Greeks set the investment bar up by more than a few notches in 2004.
Greek owners spent a record $8.5bn on secondhand or resale purchases in 2004, up more than 50% on the previous year, even though fewer vessels were bought. Large en bloc purchases and soaring prices for individual ships pushed the investments to an unprecedented level as owners scrambled for tonnage.
Huge liquidity built up from the booming markets was balanced against the need for prompt tonnage and waiting lists, sometimes up to three years, to secure a newbuilding slot.
Piraeus-based Allied Shipbroking calculated that 1,641 secondhand deals were done worldwide during 2004 with a total value of $29.5bn.
TradeWinds research, based on market information up to late December, found that Greek interests had bought around 370 vessels aggregating 24.4 million dwt at an outlay of $8.49bn.
These figures compare with 394 ships of 29.8 million dwt bought for around $5.6bn in 2003. Some off-market deals may not be listed.
Bulk carriers of all sizes outpaced tanker acquisitions by some 40% but the amount of money spent in each sector was very close to equal.
The largest en bloc acquisition of the year was the Restis group's $740m purchase of the 32-vessel Malaysia International Shipping Corp (Misc) fleet of bulkers.
But that deal was by no means isolated.
Peter Georgiopoulos, whose New York-listed Genmar's fleet is principally managed out of Piraeus, coughed up $415m in March to buy Soponata's fleet of nine tankers, including four newbuildings. In October, he was back again, shelling out another $420m for 16 bulkers from Top Glory.
Nasdaq-listed Top Tankers bought 10 vessels from Sovcomflot for $251.2m en bloc as it got its initial public offering (IPO) off the ground in July and followed up a few months later with a five-vessel purchase from Essar for $256.5m.
Tanker operator Dynacom, making its regular appearance on the sale-and-purchase (S&P) tables, also got into the spirit by paying out $192m en bloc for eight aframax tankers from Teekay - but in the course of the year the company also put down $376m for eight VLCCs.
The most expensive Greek acquisition of the year was Gulf Marine's purchase of the 300,000-dwt tanker Delos from Embiricos at a stunning $125m. Not far behind was Metrostar's purchase of the 2003-built VLCC Violando for $122.5m. Metrostar also bought two other VLCCs, bringing its total spending to $333.5m.
Barclay Shipping kept up its momentum with purchases of three bulkers and eight tankers worth a total $220.8m over and above its large newbuilding programme.
George Economou's Drytank was linked with an unverified number of bulker purchases during the year as the company lined up ships subject to an awaited approach to the US capital markets.
Minerva Maritime, a newbuilding-oriented company since its founding, took six 51,000-dwt tanker resale contracts from Pietro Barbaro for a total $207m.
Noticeably, some of the big buyers of past years were absent from the brokers' reports in 2004. Marmaras Navigation, for example, which has a substantial tanker newbuilding orderbook was absent from secondhand purchases, while leading players like Angelicoussis and Tsakos were again virtually absent.
One of the features of the hot markets was the quick turnaround of a number of ships bought by Greeks, often turning a healthy profit in a very short period of time.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, Gillian Whittaker Athens, published: 07 January 2005
Clubs face regulatory challenges as investment chickens come home to roost
---The chickens came home to roost in 2004 for those P&I clubs which had relied on investment income in order to bring their finances into balance or surplus, according to leading Lloyd's broker and P&I specialist HSBC Insurance Brokers. And regulatory demands for higher levels of capital are adding to the financial pressures facing the marine mutual market.
In its Protection & Indemnity Review 2005, HSBC says that, while the year ending February 20, 2004 produced very healthy investment returns for most clubs, the first six months of the current policy year produced very lean pickings. HSBC concludes that, although the market improved later in the year, the returns for the 2004/05 year are expected to be "very poor".
Noting that only four clubs - Britannia, the Japan Club, the Shipowners' Club, and Skuld - managed a surplus in their technical results (i.e., excluding investment performance), Nigel Russell, managing director of the Marine Division of HSBC Insurance Brokers Ltd concludes, "Some of the clubs have technical deficits which are still substantial and, in a competitive market, will be under pressure to maintain their advertised general increases while keeping a competitive open eye on those clubs whose technical results are stronger."
Nick Riddle, director of HSBC Marine Division, says, "The flat investment environment during the first three quarters of 2004 has again put financial
pressure on the clubs. The delivery to the world fleet of large numbers of very competitively rated newbuildings, and the disposal of many older ships paying much higher levels of premiums, together with demands from regulators that the clubs achieve higher levels of capital, have all accentuated this pressure".
Expanding on the regulatory challenge facing the clubs, HSBC says, "Clubs in the UK are being pressed by the regulator to provide higher minimum levels of capital which are being measured under the Enhanced Capital Requirement and the Individual Capital Assessment provisions. These measures, based on more conventionally capitalised underwriters, will require all insurers - including clubs regulated by the Financial Services Authority in the UK - to raise their minimum capital levels."
Shipping company fined for spilling oil into Columbia River
---OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The state Department of Ecology has fined a Greek shipping company $12,000, saying the crew of one of its tankers made mistakes that led to an oil spill in the Columbia River.
Ecology estimates that 519 gallons of oil spilled from the Rosa Tomasos on Aug. 30, 2003, when a fuel tank overflowed onto the deck and over the side of the vessel as it was being refueled at Hayed Island Anchorage west of Vancouver, Wash.
Ecology investigators said the crew did not slow down the transfer of oil after the tank was 80 percent full, and alleged the chief engineer ignored the an automated monitoring system that signaled the tank was getting full.
"The crew members responsible for monitoring the fuel transfer were not keeping an adequate watch," Mike Lynch, an Ecology investigator said in a statement released Thursday. "The watchman was busy loading supplies on the other side of the ship, and the third engineer left his station to deliver an oil sample to the chief engineer in the engine room."
Some of the oil washed up on beaches near Frenchman's Bar and Caterpillar Island. There were no reports of any harm to wildlife.
The ship's vessel master notified the U.S. Coast Guard and hired a private contractor to handle the bulk of the cleanup, Ecology spokeswoman Mary-Ellen Voss said.
Todd Zilbert, a Portland, Ore.-based lawyer for Tomasos Brothers, Inc. did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.
The company, based in Piraeus, Greece, has 30 days to appeal the fine.
The Associated Press
Stelios approves OSG take-over
---STELMAR Shipping founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou has given his approval to the company's take-over by rival Overseas Shipholding Group, and observers now believe the move is almost guaranteed. Haji-Ioannou was key spoiler for the failed Fortress transaction, but today gave his blessing to OSG's $48/share offer. At that price, Stelmar's share price will have quadrupled since its original IPO price and doubled in the past year, representing a 25% premium over the first Fortress bid approved by Stelmar's board. Haji-Ioannou noted that the second auction was conducted with his input and without the participation of chief executive Peter Goodfellow and now-resigned chief financial officer Stamatis Molaris, who Haji-Ioannou believed "were driven by competing self interests". Haji-Ioannou further noted that the post-tsunami "correction in share prices" among publicly listed tanker companies further bolsters the argument for voting "yes" to OSG at the forthcoming shareholders meeting on 20 January. "A lot of money and energy has been wasted by the company and the shareholders" since the Stelmar sale drama unfurled last May, but "the time has come for me to move on," concluded Haji-Ioannou.
Source: Lloyd's Register - Fairplay web links, 5 Jan 05
Attica clinches weighty stake in rival ferry giant HFD
---And potential remains for an even bigger share after discussions with leading investors, writes Nigel Lowry in Athens- Thursday January 06 2005
IN A move that could herald a new round of consolidation for Greece's ferry industry, Attica Group has bought a significant stake in rival Hellas Flying Dolphins, the largest operator in the country's coastal trades.
Virtually all of the nearly 9m shares acquired by Attica are understood to have belonged to Philip Vrionis, an outdoor advertising entrepreneur who was one of a handful of individual businessmen who bought big stakes in HFD five years ago believing the company, then named Minoan Flying Dolphins, was poised for a lucrative public flotation.
Instead, the stock market bubble burst and the company remains privately held, albeit claiming more than 2,000 shareholders.
Aside from a terse statement, Attica executives had little to add to the news yesterday, but confirmed that the group is unlikely to leave its stake as it is.
"You cannot do too much with 11%, so it will probably either go up or down," said one company source.
Most observers expect Pericles Panagopulos-led Attica to try to build up its position in HFD further.
The company is understood to have been talking for several months with another leading HFD shareholder, Costas Agapitos, regarding his 7% of the company's shares, although apparently without reaching agreement.
Attica already controls Superfast Ferries, which is active in the Adriatic, Baltic and North Sea, as well as Blue Star Ferries, which is now focused on the Greek island trades and is competing with HFD on a couple of routes.
Minoan Lines, currently the largest single shareholder in HFD with 31.6%, saw its share price rise 4.5% yesterday as news seemed to spread of Attica's move.
Attica was up nearly 1.4% while subsidiary Blue Star's price rose 3.5%.
Adding spice to the present jockeying for influence within the company, last summer ferry owner and Attica board member Gerassimos Strintzis defected to take over the helm at HFD as chief executive.
Rosyth link to Norway on cards for Superfast
---THE operators of Scotland's only direct European ferry link are considering new proposals for a service to Norway, it emerged today.
Scottish Nationalists say the Fife facility, run by Forth Ports, should be expanded so it can become a hub for services to Northern Europe, the Baltic states and Scandinavia.
SNP Mid-Scotland & Fife MSP Bruce Crawford and Douglas Chapman, the Nationalists' General Election candidate for the Dunfermline & West Fife constituency, were due to renew their calls for more services during a visit to the port today.
Superfast Ferries, which runs the daily sailings to Zeebrugge in Belgium and has previously mooted a possible Scandinavian route, is understood to have been approached recently by a Norwegian port proposing a second link to Rosyth.
Superfast's figures for 2004 show that cargo carriage rose on the Rosyth-Zeebrugge route by 25 per cent to more than 40,000 freight units - despite a reduction in sailings due to refit work to add cabins early in year.
Superfast says the number of private vehicles rose by a fifth, to about 45,000, while passenger numbers, at 200,000, remained roughly the same as in 2003 - but the proportion coming from the continent rose in relation to outgoing Scottish travellers.
Yannis Kriticos, director of Superfast's North Sea operations, said last night that the company would be "pleased to explore additional services" from Rosyth.
Mr Kriticos added: "We are open to discussions about any proposals that have been put forward to us.
"Any such proposal would, of course, involve a considerable amount of work and analysis."
This would involve gathering details on port infrastructure, sea routes and potential business before commissioning a full feasibility study, said Mr Kriticos.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said: "We would welcome additional ferry services from Scotland to mainland Europe.
"However, there are limits to the financial support available and any new service would have to show itself to be commercially viable."
Source: http://news.scotsman.com, Alastair Dalton Transport Correspondent , Wed 5 Jan 2005
Port of Piraeus-Floatation of a further 24% stake possible
---Port of Pireaus is examining the possibility of the floatation of a 24% stake in Port of Piraeus in ATHEX within 2005. Note that the state currently controls a 74.5% stake in the company.
However, Ministry of Shipping had previously dismissed the possibility of the state to further reduce its stake in the company.
In addition, management of Port of Piraeus currently examines the participation of private investors in the company's 2005-2009 investment program.
Piraeus Port Authorities holds EGM on January 29. Shareholders will be called to approve the budget for 2005 and the financing plan of the company's investment program.
Source: www.reporter.gr, 03 January 2005 -
Free navigation on Rhine and Danube?
---The full liberalization of commercial shipping routes on the Rhine and Danube rivers through the EU program TRACECA (Transport Corridor Europe, Caucasus, Asia) could be a crucial step toward finding new waterways for carrying products to and from Europe.
Greek bodies are also involved.
"In its policy, Greece is taking care to ensure a dynamic presence in international fora and the strengthening of the position of our merchant marine," Yiannis Tzoannos, general secretary of the Merchant Marine Ministry, told Kathimerini.
The project is now on the cards as countries which used to belong to the eastern bloc are now EU members or candidates or wish to have good trade and economic relations with the EU.
It would mean, shipping sources told Kathimerini, that a vessel would be able to enter from the port of Rotterdam and, via the Rhine and the Danube, end up in the Black Sea and vice versa. As well as opening up new navigation corridors and markets, stations for the refueling and support of commercial riverboats would also be built.
The navigation status of ships along the Rhine and the Danube, including the whole navigable section from Ulm to the Black Sea, was free until 1948, without restrictions on flags, as stipulated by the Paris Conference of 1921, to which Greece was also a signatory. However, in 1948, at the Belgrade Convention, the 1921 treaty was annulled by the then Eastern European states and the free movement of ships along the two rivers was banned.
From the outset, Greece said that revisions of international treaties should not be accepted as the principle of free movement of ships along navigable routes of international interest, such as the Danube, was essential for the survival of Greek maritime shipping.
Nowadays, when political change in Eastern European states has created a new economic, commercial and political state of affairs, the question arises whether the TRACECA program will push along the process for the freedom of navigation along the two rivers so that new water corridors are opened for ships, regardless of flags, or whether a state of protectionism will continue as it is today.
Source: www.ekathimerini.com, 1 Jan 05, Nikos Bardounias
Athenians, falling in love again
---ATHENS For years, Athens was a city loved by many but shunned by Athenians. Travelers still came to see the Acropolis and the Plaka, the old part of the city, but residents fled from the pollution, traffic and general decay.
Today, though, Athenians are back. And while this city of about 750,000 does not have a precise tally, property agents say so many people have moved here that the real estate crash that was widely expected to follow the 2004 Summer Olympics never happened.
"Athens is no longer the unbearable place to live," said Yannis Ploumis, an affiliate of Sotheby's International Realty in the Greek capital. The change has people "feeling so much better about the capital that they now want to be closer to it," Ploumis said.
The formerly run-down sections of Psirri, Exarcheia and Gazi now are filled with trendy lofts. Many neoclassical buildings throughout the city have been renovated. And factory buildings dotted with wrought-iron balconies have been transformed into upscale designer shops and galleries.
Nowhere, however, is the city's new sheen more obvious than in Kolonaki.
Tucked beneath the unspoiled slopes of Lykabettus Hill, the highest point in the city, the neighborhood was long famed as a chic section, its streets lined with orange trees, luxury boutiques and stately apartments.
When city dwellers and businesses began fleeing to the northern suburbs in the 1980s, they took the area's life with them.
"I remember walking down the streets of the district in the '80s, and the area was stripped of children, school buses and liveliness," said Michael Moussos, a senior associate of Pateras Prime Real Estate. "Now the school buses are back, the children are everywhere - a sign that families, not just singletons, are part of the return to the center."
The modern construction boom in Athens, directed primarily by engineers rather than architects, began in the 1950s with an influx of residents from the countryside. New apartment houses pushed up everywhere, rubbing shoulders with 19th-century mansions and blurring social boundaries.
By the late 1960s, space had become scarce and land values quadrupled, then doubled again, spurring a large shift in residential development toward the northern suburbs in the 1980s.
It took a stock market boom in 1999 and development for the Games to rekindle interest in the city center, sending real estate prices to new highs.
"But that doesn't really matter," said Maria Sotiropoulou, a chartered valuation consultant for DTZ Mihalos, an international property consulting and surveying company in Athens.
What counts, she said, is "the convenience factor - that the residents of Kolonaki and fringe regions in the center have the best access to both the new infrastructure works that have been built and the fresh face of the capital, its theaters, galleries and restaurants."
With development and redevelopment continuing, many agents, including Ploumis, predict that prices over the next few months will level out rather than rise more.
Unlike Paris, London and New York, Athens has remained a local real estate market, failing to attract foreign investors in any great number.
But Greek buyers can provide their own bit of glamour.
For example, agents say, a two-year shipping boom has prompted some Greek shipping titans to buy new luxury apartments. "With their industry on an upward swing, shipowners want to sink some of their gains into trophy flats," Moussos said.
The buyer? A Greek shipowner.
There are no more than about a dozen flats in Athens whose construction, size, location and commanding views of the Parthenon place them solidly in the category of true trophy properties. Mainly, they are in the stately mansions that line Herodus Atticus and the surrounding streets where the palace and royal gardens of King Otto, Greece's first modern monarch, once stood, now the capital's lone green and peaceful refuge.
The downside? High taxes.
The transfer tax alone is 11 percent, the second-highest in Europe, after Luxembourg's. State taxes and agent fees add about 15 percent more.
But that could change with tax revisions being considered by the government. Buoyed by that prospect, agents are hoping that the luxury market will have a new boom that might even attract long-elusive foreign investors.
Source: http://www.iht.com, By Anthee Carassava International Herald Tribune Friday, January 7, 2005