Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 38 - 2005

 

Greek owners see common rules as a common starting platform

---Shipowners are striving to have the best possible vessels built to ensure the protection of the environment, human life and economic viability, declared tanker operator, George Prokopiou. The head of Dynacom Tankers Management said it is not imaginable for a company to heavily invest and not try to impose on the classification societies that they develop "the best vessel for ourselves and for the industry generally".
Prokopiou said that "the [shipping] industry is progressing and by trial and error there is progress and any set of common rules is not unchangeable. In three or four years time we will have gained experience and the rules will need changes. What these rules do is provide the same starting platform for all, there are no shortcuts."
Prokopiou made his comments at a press luncheon organised by Germanischer Lloyd after the annual meeting of GL's Hellas Committee, September 20 at which preparations for the introduction of common structural rules for tankers and bulkers was one of the topics raised.
Hermann Klein, member of the executive board of GL, noted that for "20 to 25 years class has been working towards common rules and have now got unified requirements". Klein said: "The next step is common rules and this is where we are going now. The common rules are a good compromise and I believe they will come into force, as foreseen, on April 1, 2006." However, he said that owners want the lifetime of a ship to be 25 years and "there are different ways to achieve this".
John Kokarakis, head of the 'expert team' noted GL's role in developing rules for bulkers [as part of the Joint Bulker Project] and how the continuous feedback from the industry leads to ongoing improvements and upgrades, resulting in even more robust ships. "Given that the scantlings will be determined by the same rules and principles, there should not be any differences for the same principal dimensions of the vessels," explained Kokarakis.
The meeting was told "optimum space utilisation, propulsion systems and equipment, hydrodynamic and manoeuvring performance, as well as noise and vibration tolerant designs will make the difference in the future".
Klein said GL now classifies over 50m gt and 5,730 ships. More than 1,000 vessels of 20m gt are on order to GL class and to come into service by 2009. "GL has 25% of the Greek container ship market, and almost 90% of Greek container newbuildings are ordered with GL class," underlined Klein. Indeed, developments in container ships was emphasised at the meeting.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 23 September 2005 Vol. 6 / No. 35


Pappadakis elected at Intercargo
Source: Fairplay Daily NewsDaily News - Email Products23 Sep 2005


Greece's largest business delegation ever to Russia Sept 27-30
---Greece is to send a business delegation to Russia on September 27-30, the largest it has ever sent to any country, Deputy Foreign Minister Euripides Stylianidis said on Tuesday.
"This demonstrates the importance we attach to economic diplomacy, also as a part of opening up towards new markets, which is the policy that Premier Costas Karamanlis announced," Stylianidis told members of the delegation at the Athens Chamber of Trade and Industry.
The purpose of the trip to Russia is to boost exports, spur the creation of joint ventures, attract Russian investors, and sign a political protocol to implement targets set by Karamanlis and Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent meetings.
A key issue for Athens is the avoidance of double taxation. If Moscow signs an agreement, it will pave the way for a pact on shipping, according to the head of economic ties between Greece and Russia, ambassador Spyros Georgiles.
Other major sectors to be promoted are energy - especially natural gas - tourism, transport and agriculture, Georgiles noted.
Playing a key role in the delegation will be northern Greek company representatives, Stylianidis said recently after a meeting with the Association of Northern Greek Industry in Thessaloniki.
Stylianidis also noted that Hellenic Aid was the first organisation to send aid to Beslan for reconstruction of its school, and to house child survivors.
Source: http://www.ana.gr, Athens News Agency, Greece - Sep 20, 2005


Hellenic ferry finally built after six years
---Greek passenger-shipping company Hellenic Seaways recently took delivery of the Nissos Mykonos, a 1,900-passenger ropax ferry that has been six years in the making.
Even before its maiden voyage, it was a ship with a history.
The ferry, which will be routed from Piraeus to the islands of Chios and Lesvos, was completed at Hellenic Shipyards of Skaramanga although, technically speaking, its construction was not finished by that yard.
In February 1999, when Hellenic was under the management of UK engineering company Brown & Root, Strintzis Lines - which was later renamed Blue Star Ferries - placed a much-acclaimed order for up to three ferries at the yard, which, if all three were built, was reckoned to be worth $105m.
The order for the first ship, named Superferry Myconos, marked the end of a commercial-newbuilding drought for Hellenic that had lasted more than a decade.
However, the excitement was not to last. Strintzis signed up for a second vessel but the order for the third did not materialise.
Brown & Root was pushed out of Hellenic just two months after steel-cutting began on the first ship and, within the following 12 months, rumours surfaced that the yard was trying to renegotiate the terms of the contracts. It soon became clear that deliveries of the ships, originally slated for 2001, would be seriously delayed.
In 2002, Hellenic was bought by German consortium HDW-Ferrostaal and shortly thereafter the contract for the two ships was cancelled, with Blue Star collecting compensation said to be between $10m and $15m.
The unfinished hulls were left untouched at the yard for more than two years.
In June last year, Gerassimos Strintzis, former head of Strintzis Lines, took over as managing director of Hellenic Seaways, at that time called Hellas Flying Dolphins (HFD).
Just two months later, HFD announced that it was buying the two unfinished hulls. No price was announced for the deal but market sources indicated it was around $15m.
Since then, subcontractors brought in by Hellenic Seaways have completed the first ship.
At the time, HFD estimated it would take delivery of the first vessel in July this year and the second within 2006.
The Nissos Mykonos has a service speed of 26.3 knots and a top speed of just over 28 knots. It has capacity for 418 vehicles and is the second newbuilding to join Hellenic Seaways' 34-ship fleet this year.
Source: Gillian Whittaker Athens published: 23 September 2005


Attica Group's Revenues Decrease by 3.4% in H1:05
Super fast Ferries maintained its leading position in the Greece - Italy routes as far as passengers and freight units traffic is concerned, holding respective market shares of 27.7% and 25.7%.
The respective market shares in H1:04 were 30.2% and 27%.
During the first half of 2005 Attica Group operated 16 vessels (plus two Ro-Ros) vs. 18 vessels in the respective period of the previous year.
Source: www.reporter.gr, 09:51 - 21 September 2005


Golden Energy Cuts IPO Size To 7.5 Million Shares From 8 Million Shares
---WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Underwriters for Golden Energy Marine Corp. on Monday cut the size of the company's pending initial public offering to 7.5 million common shares and lowered the estimated price range to $19-$21 a share.
The Greek shipping company filed an IPO in July and originally set the IPO terms at 8 million shares with an estimated price range between $24 and $27 a share.
The company said the underwriters have an option to purchase up to about 1.13 million shares to cover any overallotments, an amount also reduced from the 1.2 million shares disclosed in July's registration.
Credit Suisse First Boston, Jefferies & Co., Fortis Securities LLC, FBB First Business Bank and P&K Securities SA were listed as the underwriters for the offering, according to an amended Form F-1 filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company said it will use the net proceeds from the IPO and its new secured credit facility to acquire nine Panamax drybulk carriers from an affiliate and for general corporate purposes.
The company's shares have been approved to list on the Nasdaq National Market under the symbol SHIP, the filing said.
Source: Dow Jones Newswires September 19, 2005 18:07 ET (22:07 GMT)


Aries Maritime Acquires Two New Products Tankers From Stena Group
---Enters Into 2 1/2 Year Bareboat Charter Agreement That Includes Profit Sharing Component; Transaction to Be Accretive to Company's Dividend
ATHENS, GREECE -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 09/20/2005 -- Aries Maritime Transport Limited (NASDAQ: RAMS) announced today that it has entered into an agreement to purchase two 72,750 dwt double-hulled Panamax products tankers from the Stena Group. The vessels are currently under construction at Dalian Shipyard in China and are expected to be delivered in November 2005 and March 2006.
Upon delivery, each vessel will enter into a 2 1/2 year bareboat charter agreement with Stena Bulk at a rate of $18,700 per day, which is equal to a time charter equivalent rate of approximately $24,500. In addition to the secured income from the fixed bareboat rate, Aries has entered into an index linked profit sharing agreement with Stena Bulk, with a 30 percent share for Aries.
The aggregate purchase price for the two vessels is approximately $112 million. The Company plans to draw upon its $150 million revolving senior credit facility to fund the transaction, with 10% of the purchase price due at the time of signing and the balance due at time of delivery of each vessel. Management expects this transaction to provide a minimum of $0.07 accretion to the Company's 2006 dividend, prior to any profit sharing contribution.
Mons S. Bolin, President and Chief Executive Officer, commented, "We are pleased to grow the Company with this accretive acquisition of two high specification double-hulled Panamax products tankers that further enhances our position to take advantage of the highly favourable long-term fundamentals for the products sector. We are also pleased to commence a relationship with Stena, a leading Swedish shipping group of the highest international reputation for quality and reliability. Consistent with our focus on making strategic decisions that drive shareholder value, the bareboat charter and profit-sharing agreement allows Aries to provide further earnings stability while positioning the Company to increase its dividend. We look forward to paying our first dividend after our third quarter earnings announcement. As we move forward, we will continue to seek growth opportunities that are accretive to our dividend and best serve the Company and its shareholders."
The Company currently intends to pay a quarterly dividend in February, May, August and November of each year. Aries expects to declare the initial quarterly dividend in the amount of $0.52 per share, following the announcement of its third quarter 2005 results in October, 2005. The first dividend will cover the four-month period between June 1, 2005 and September 30, 2005.
About Aries Maritime Transport Limited
Aries Maritime Transport Limited is an international shipping company that owns and operates products tankers and container vessels. The Company's products tanker fleet, which has an average age of 7.8 years and is 100% double-hulled, consists of four MR tankers, two Panamax tankers and one Aframax tanker. The Company also owns a fleet of five container vessels. The Company's container vessels have an average age of 15.6 years and range in capacity from 1,799 to 2,917 TEU. All of the Company's product tankers and container vessels currently operate under long-term time charters.
Source: www.ariesmaritime.com


Poseidon Capital Helps Pittas Family Execute Reverse Merger/PIPE
---In an unprecedented transaction that should give ambitious, smaller shipping companies hope of tapping the public markets, Poseidon Capital has helped Pittas family controlled Eurobulk execute a reverse merger into a public shell concurrent with a $21 million PIPE offering.
What we find so impressive about this deal, which was placed by PIPE leader Roth Capital, is that it allowed Eurobulk to access public equity at a significant premium to net asset value on a fleet of vintage bulk carriers. This structure is one that makes a lot of sense for (presently) smaller companies that wish to gain a public listing and raise money but do not have the critical mass to do a traditional public offering. As we understand it, the deal was sold to about 20 investors after a two-week roadshow, and the shares will likely begin trading sometime in early 2006. Congratulations to Aristides on this groundbreaking deal and best of luck continuing to build the company.
Source: www.marinemoney.com, 22 Sep 2005


Making Waves
---PITY THE FOLKS at Diana Shipping (DSX), particularly the largest stockholder, Greek shipping magnate Simeon Palios. No sooner did Athens-based Diana come public on the New York Stock Exchange, on March 17 at $17, than benchmark shipping rates began a slide of more than 60%. Investors quickly lost their stomachs in the rough seas, sending the stock down to a recent $15.
Toughen up, maties. Shipping rates are notoriously cyclical, and there's a good chance they'll soon stage a comeback. And when they do, Diana should be poised to excel. It has a thoroughly ship-shape balance sheet, with almost no debt, and a management team made up of some notably savvy old salts.
Palios, who at 63 is the CEO and 52% stakeholder, has spent more than half his life in the shipping industry, and is a trained naval architect. Diana's president, Anastassis Margaronis, has 25 years' experience. One of the directors Boris Nachamkin, longtime ship-lending maven at Bankers Trust and now managing director of Seatrust Shipping Services, a private consulting firm.
Some analysts think the stock could jump more than 35% when the key shipping rates, now depressed by a seemingly temporary slowdown in iron-ore imports by China, eventually recover. In the meantime, the shares offer investors some attractive ballast: a dividend yield of more than 14%. No wonder that some value-oriented mutual funds sponsored by Fidelity Investment and Dreyfus have bought in, along with a number of hedge funds.
Diana, with a market capitalization just shy of $600 million, is one of several shipping firms that came public this year. They aimed to capitalize on record-high shipping rates caused by China's emergence as trading behemoth. Athens-based DryShips (DRYS) came out at $18 in February, but the shares have since sunk to 16.32 as shipping rates subsequently declined. Likewise, New York's Eagle Bulk Shipping (EGLE) had to drop its offering price in June from a planned $17 to $14, though the stock has since climbed to 16.20.
All in all, Diana Shipping looks to be staying the course.
"Diana has a good track record, a good management, and a sound strategy," says Konstantinos Koutsomitopoulos, the 37-year old chief financial officer. "Investors, who weren't comfortable with the cyclicality of our industry are starting to understand how rates can come back."
The problem is that the going rate for Panamax charters plunged from $35,000 a day to $13,000 a day after Diana came public; they now stand about $19,000. China, a swing buyer of bulk commodities on the route, had previously pushed the rates as high as $40,000 a day. That reflected a voracious appetite for iron-ore and coke to stoke its steel mills and maintain its position as a big exporter of steel.
But Brazil, a key exporter or iron ore, hiked it prices by some 70% earlier this year, and China, apparently in response, has scaled back its iron-ore purchases. Many analysts think the Middle Kingdom is now working through stockpiles of iron ore and will soon have to return to the market whether it likes the prices or not.
The best evidence: China's steel production has been running at record rates, hitting 30.5 million tons in August, up nearly 30% in a year. The theory goes that China's re-emergence in the bulk transportation business could push rates back up to $22,000 and above. Diana, betting on just such a rebound, has been mostly negotiating short-term charter contracts, leaving it free to renew at higher rates later on.
WHILE THE STOCK LOOKS TEMPTING now, it conceivably could drop still further in the short term. That's because Diana is one of several IPOs where prohibitions on sales by insiders recently expired or are about to expire. Later this month, Philadelphia-based Prudential Bancorp of Pennsylvania (PBIP) and Rome, N.Y.-based Rome Bancorp (ROME) will join the list.
In Diana's case, the 180-day holding period expired last week, meaning Palios and co-venturer Netherlands-based Fortis Bank could sell some of the 27.6 million insider shares, depressing market prices. But CFO Koutsomitopoulos says there have been no indications that insiders plan any selling.
Lisa Dong, an analyst for Westwood Management, based in Dallas, bought a chunk of Diana Shipping stock early on and has since redeployed the funds into other investments. But she still thinks the stock could jump to $19 if the shipping rates improve. "Basically there is not too much expectation in the stock," she says. "The price tells you how much fear is factored into the market."
New York-based Jefferies & Co., one of the underwriters for the IPO, believes the shares could jump to $21 in the coming months. "Basically these shares are a bet on a continuation of the macro play on demand for bulk commodities like iron ore by China and India," says Magnus Fyhr, a maritime analyst with Jefferies. He thinks the demand will push Panamax rates back above $20,000 a day.
"We believe a soft landing is more likely as the Chinese government remains focused on limiting speculative real estate investments while stimulating fixed asset investments in large infrastructure projects for the power and transportation sectors," wrote Jefferies in a report last month.
As China's shipping appetite returns, the officers and crew of Diana can be counted on to go full-steam ahead.
Source: http://www.smartmoney.com, By Jack Willoughby Published: September 21, 2005


EFG International Plans to Raise Up to SF1.73 Billion in IPO
---Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) -- EFG International, which controls Switzerland's EFG Bank, plans to raise as much as 1.73 billion Swiss francs ($1.36 billion) in an initial public offering.
The sale may value the business at as much as 6.2 billion francs, including the existing shares, EFG said in a faxed statement. The company, whose business caters to the wealthy, said Sept. 8 that it intends to use the proceeds of an IPO to increase hiring and buy competitors.
EFG Bank, founded in 1995, bought two Latin American businesses this year from Dresdner Bank AG and Banco Sabadell, and acquired two private banking businesses from its parent. The Zurich-based bank said net income more than doubled in the first half to 50.1 million francs, excluding those purchases.
``EFG has been quite a successful growth story these last few years,'' Christoph Ritschard, a banking analyst at Zuercher Kantonalbank in Zurich, said in a phone interview. ``The big question is whether this growth rate can be maintained.''
EFG was built by John Latsis, a self-made Greek shipping tycoon who branched out into finance in 1979 when he bought a Swiss bank from the Onassis family. The family owns stakes in Greece's third-largest bank, EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA, and in Hellenic Petroleum SA, Greece's biggest oil refiner.
EFG Bank European Financial Group, a Geneva-based banking company founded by the Latsis family, owns about 65 percent of EFG International. Existing investors don't plan to sell any shares in the offering, the company said.
EFG International Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Howell owns 7.6 percent and Chairman Jean Pierre Cuoni owns 6.6 percent, according to the company's Web site. The bank's client relationship officers and other managers own the rest.
Credit Suisse First Boston, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. will manage the IPO.
Source: http://www.bloomberg.com


Trans-it opens sales office in Greece
---Especially for Greek ship owners and managers Trans-it ApS has established a Sales Office in Piraeus.
In the eight years since the founding of the company the management has focused mainly on developing a system that offers ship owners and managers a flexible, reliable and professional way to manage the distribution of spare parts to their fleet.
The new sales office in Piraeus will be responsible for sales and marketing; all operations activities are coordinated from Copenhagen Denmark.
Contact: Elise Croonen, Trans-it ApS, Tel: +30 6976648628, mailto: elise@transit-dk.com, www.etransit.dk
Source: Press Release


Greek Shipping Awards expanded for 2005
As in 2004, the Awards will be adjudicated by a broad based panel of distinguished personalities and experts representing various aspects of Greek shipping, based on nominations from the wider shipping industry. The panel for 2005 will be announced shortly.
The full list of Awards to be offered this year is:
Dry Cargo Company of the Year - sponsored by ABN Amro
Tanker Company of the Year - sponsored by Hellenic Exchanges Group
Passenger Line of the Year - sponsored by Germanischer Lloyd
Shipbroker of the Year
Sponsorship: Janet Wood, +30 210 4127217, e-mail: medmedia@ath.forthnet.gr
Source: Lloyds List, Press Release