Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 26 - 2007

 

Major shifts seen in coastal shipping

By Nikos Bardounias - Kathimerini
The agreement between Periklis Panagopoulos and Panos Laskaridis for the purchase by the latter of the former's 22.25 percent stake in Minoan Lines for -94.5 million was definitely the biggest coastal shipping news of last week.
The deal means that Laskaridis, who owns close to 27 percent of Minoan Lines and 34.7 percent of Hellenic Seaways (HSW), is now the strongest group in local coastal shipping. This development, following the entry of the Grimaldi group into ANEK with a 14.5 percent stake, shows how attractive investing in Greek coastal shipping has become.
Investment does not necessarily mean the purchase of ships. It also means the acquisition of shares, so as to obtain the momentum required for plans for possible mergers or acquisitions to be realized.
The efforts toward the acquisitions and mergers of companies actually began in 1999 when Pantelis Sfinias created Minoan Flying Dolphins (MFD). He in turn began the concentration of virtually all coastal shipping companies. He first bought Ceres Flying Dolphins, active in the Saronic Gulf. The acquisition rally that followed sent Sfinias to the top of the industry as he managed to unite under the MFD umbrella five other coastal shipping companies: those of Costas Agapitos, of Antonis Agapitos, of Giorgos Ventouris, of Yiannis Stathakis and of Gerasimos Agoudimos, although the latter maintained a 30 percent stake and managed to buy back his company when the Sfinias experiment began losing steam. His company is now under his full control.
The Sfinias enterprise started crumbling when 80 seamen and passengers lost their lives off Paros with the sinking of the Express Samina in September of the year 2000. A few weeks later, Sfinias killed himself. After his death, Minoan Lines became a dominant force in its attempt to keep the company afloat. Its first move was to rename itself Hellenic Flying Dolphins. The first positive results for the company surfaced in 2002-2003, when Gerasimos Strintzis joined the firm as its CEO. Hellenic Flying Dolphins renamed itself Hellenic Seaways and slowly began becoming competitive and presenting positive financial reports and profits.
ANEK's opening
Just as major shifts dominated coastal shipping, Hania-based company ANEK made significant moves in 1999: It become a strategic investor with 42 percent of the share capital in Rhodes-based DANE, promising to finance investments for its fleet's modernization but without achieving anything important. ANEK then tried to depart from DANE but remained there until the Rhodes company crumbled. ANEK also joined Maritime of Lesvos (NEL), buying a 17 percent stake. It remained a stakeholder for some time until it sold its shares to Apostolos Ventouris, the current CEO of NEL. ANEK further acquired 100 percent of Rethymniaki and 50.03 percent of LANE. Today the company, with Yiannis Vardinoyiannis as its CEO, has managed to improve its finances, complete successfully its share capital increase and, crucially, managed to attract as an investor the Grimaldi group which bought 14.5 percent of the company.
Strintzis Lines had been active in the Cyclades when suddenly it passed into the hands of the Attica Group. This gave new momentum to the company, which renewed its fleet, the youngest now in Greece, and became dominant on many routes in the Aegean, mainly to the Cyclades. It was later renamed Blue Star Ferries and is now an exemplary company offering high-standard services with new vessels.
Attica Group also owns 100 percent of Superfast Ferries, which operates in the Adriatic. It had stakes in Minoan Lines and HFD but sold them, acquiring significant sums with which it strengthened its overall position. The main shareholder at Attica is Periklis Panagopoulos.
Other companies
Maritime of Lesvos went through some tough times due to poor choices in previous years. Yet Apostolos Ventouris turned things around, as he worked wonders for the company, both on its liabilities and in its position in coastal shipping. Today it operates eight ships in the Aegean. Other market players are Saos of Fotis Manoussis, who also owns 33 percent of listed company Nick Galis, and Aegean Lines, with two speedboats that serve the Cyclades. Kallisti Ferries recently started serving Samos and Icaria, owned by Giorgos Spanos and Italian Pascal Lota.
Source: 27 June 2007, http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/news/content.asp?aid=85006


Capital markets are driving the level of bank lending
---The massive surge in interest on the part of shipping in capital markets has driven the rising level of banking lending. Capital markets don't compete with banks maintained bankers, rather, such activity complements lending. As HSH Nordbank shipping head Harald Kuznik says: "IPOs need debt to support them."
And the support is growing as the market cap of shipping stocks rises. In the US alone the market cap has jumped from less than $5bn in 2002 to almost $40bn today, the recent Marine Money conference in New York was told.
Fortis md Harris Antoniou said: "Time will tell how much of [shipping] growth is structural and how much is due to the benign [financing] situation."
Further, Antoniou says, energy, commodities and transportation clients are now crossing boundaries. "We see a lot of clients who used to be in commodities that are moving into shipping; they previously just chartered but as prices moved up, they wanted to be a part of that value creation". Similarly, energy companies are moving into commodities which has led Fortis to cluster all activities in these sectors into a dedicated "energy, commodities and transportation" division.
On shipping banks broadening their portfolios, DnB NOR global shipping head Hans Petter Aas asserted: "Banks have to adapt to a different environment, so we are trying to increase fee income and corporate finance to correct for the shortfall in margins. There is no way to cut costs, so the only way around that it to increase income from areas where we don't use as much capital as we do in pure lending."
Kuznik said that by developing long-term relationships with shipowners, banks can cross-sell into other service areas so income is not solely margin-based.
Ted Petropoulos of Petrofin says that while they have been in the forefront of shipping companies heading to the capital markets, the majority of Greeks will remain private. Speaking at the third Global Shipbrokers Forum, held in conjunction with Pireas 2007, Petropoulos said that of a total 725 Greek shipping companies currently in operation, 21 (about 2.9%) are listed on the US and London stock exchanges, but they do control 31.4m dwt, or 16.4%, of the total Greekcontrolled dwt, which Petrofin calculates at 208m dwt. Average age of the listed fleets is 12 years, as compared with an average of 18.7 years for the Greek fleet as a whole.
Petropoulos said Petrofin research saw a rise of 4.7% in shipping companies but that the number of companies operating fleets over 20 years of age has increased from the previous year to about 500.
Putting the whole capital-markets issue in context, Petropoulos says that in 2006, public shipping companies accounted for "a mere 0.3% to 0.4% of global stockmarket value".
This figure compares with shipping's estimated 2% share of world gross domestic product (GDP) in 2006, underlining the shipping sector's underweight status in the public markets, he says.
Petropoulos says the market capitalisation of all 21 publicly listed Greek companies totals $11.8bn. The largest is Danaos Corp with $1.747bn, followed by Diana Shipping with $1.366bn and Tsakos Energy Navigation (TEN) with $1.225bn.
Petropoulos noted that going public gives companies an opportunity to grow quickly and decisively by using other people's money to achieve economies of scale.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 29 June 2007 Vol. 8 / No. 25


TOP Tankers Announces Issuance of 2.1 Million Shares to Strategic Investor
---ATHENS, Greece, June 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- TOP Tankers Inc (Nasdaq: TOPT), announced today that it has placed 2.1 million common shares with companies connected with George Economou, the well-known Greek shipping investor. The shares were issued under the Company's effective shelf registration statement in connection with the Company's controlled equity offering program. The aggregate gross proceeds of the placement were approximately $14.3 million, which the Company expects to use for acquisitions, working capital and general corporate purposes.
Evangelos J. Pistiolis, president and CEO of TOP Tankers Inc., stated, "This strategic investment constitutes a vote of confidence in our Company and its management. We welcome Mr. Economou's valued participation. After the placement, Mr. Economou owns approximately 3.7 million shares of TOP Tankers according to recent filings."
Source: www.toptankers.com


Top 20 advisors: Vivian Lewis sails on with DryShips
---Last December, over 100 stocks were featured in our Top Picks for 2007 report. Now, at mid-year, we turn to the 20 advisors whose picks showed the strongest gains to get an update on their previous picks, as well as a new favorite stock for the second half of the year.
Vivian Lewis, editor of Global Investing, chose DryShips Inc. (NASDAQ: DRYS) as her top pick for 2007. The stock rose 126%, as of June 1, 2007. Here is her original recommendation on DRYS and her new favorite stock for the rest of 2007.
Meanwhile, the advisor now says, "DryShips is trading at a P/E of only 15, even now that the stock has gone up 300%. There is a lot of negativity about George Economou, who heads the company and now is the CFO.
"He headed a prior shipping company, which filed for bankruptcy after it could not pay back loans to British banks a decade ago. This was in the DryShips prospectus of course, and was also the subject of a report written by Kate Welling (former Barron's reporter) for a group shorting DRYS, including the Weeden brokerage firm.
"As a result, all this maybe makes DRYS cheaper than in would be otherwise. When I recommended DRYS in Global Investing in December 2005, I wanted it for its yield of 7.8%. That went up to 8.4% a year ago when the shorts were out in force, and the stock fell from $12.75 (our buy level) to $9.50.
"So the recovery is nice, but there is still an 'odor' around, which is why the resignation of the second CFO in a year causes some upset. I'm not giving up on this stock and indeed, perhaps would want to buy on weakness -- although as a holder, I am not sure I want to see weakness."
Source: Posted Jun 27th 2007 10:35AM by Steven Halpern, http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2007/06/27/top-20-advisors-vivian-lewis-sails-on-with-dryships/


Restis and Constellation forge dry bulk venture
---Greece's Restis family and US energy group Constellation Energy have established a new joint venture company to own and operate a fleet of largebulk carriers, writes Nigel Lowry inAthens.
The Restis Group's dry cargo holding company First Financial has agreed to sell an initial fleet of five capesize vessels and one panamax bulker to the joint company, Bulk Energy Transport.
Bulk Energy will be equally owned by Restis, through affiliated Mineral Transport Holdings, and by Baltimore's Constellation, through subsidiary Constellation Bulk Energy Holdings.
Sources close to the deal said the aim was 'not to remain small but to grow'. However, it is understood there is as yet no specific plan to snap up other units in the large Restis-controlled dry bulk armada, or its orderbook.
Restis owns a large dry bulk fleet tilted heavily to capesizes, a sector in which it has 14 units as well as eight further capes on order at SungDong Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering in South Korea, as well as numerous handymaxes.
Restis and Constellation will each be represented by two directors on the board of Bulk Energy.
The six initial bulkers, all built in the 1990s, are expected to be delivered from sole Restis ownership between now and November, subject to existing charter arrangements.
Kostas Koutsebils, chief financial officer for the Restis Group, said the move was 'part of our strategy of forming relations and joint ventures and coming closer to cargo interests'.
The group has more than 90 vessels in its fleet or on order and has an interest in several vessel operating ventures in the dry bulk sector as well as a joint venture with Malaysian International Shipping Corp in the tanker market.
Constellation, which has a large number of vessels under time charter, is one of the leading suppliers of steam coal to the global marketplace.
The joint venture bulkers are expected to predominantly carry coal for Constellation's own needs, although with a large pool of ships under its operation the US power group may also use the vessels for third party trading.
The joint venture will subcontract technical management to Restis shipmanagement arm Enterprises Shipping and Trading while Constellation will serve as commercial manager.
Bulk Energy Transport is being financed by a syndicate of financial institutions led by Citibank and including Credit Suisse, Alpha Bank, Bank of Ireland, Saudi American Bank, First Business Bank and Agriculture Bank, a joint statement said yesterday.
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Constellation Energy is a Fortune 200 diversified energy company with revenues for 2006 of $19.3bn.
Source: [June 27, 2007] (Lloyds List Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)


Greece. Globus delivers MV Sea Globe to new charterer COSCO
Source: Tuesday, 26 June 2007 , http://www.bymnews.com/news/newsDetails.php?id=10883


OceanFreight Inc. Fleet Grows to Eight Vessels
---ATHENS, GREECE--(Marketwire - June 26, 2007) - OceanFreight Inc. (NASDAQ: OCNF), a NASDAQ listed bulk shipping company, announced today that it has entered into an agreement to acquire an eighth vessel, a Panamax drybulk carrier, that will immediately commence a two year time charter upon its delivery to the Company later this year. The purchase price of this vessel is $47 Million.
Bob Cowen, OceanFreight's Chairman and CEO, said, "This acquisition demonstrates OceanFreight's commitment and capability to grow our fleet and enhance shareholder value in today's highly competitive market environment. This acquisition will put the remaining cash raised in our IPO to work immediately, creating additional cash flow to support our dividend.
"This 1995 built, 75,000 dwt vessel will enhance our market position as a leading owner and operator of Panamax bulk carriers. We have chartered her to Transbulk of Sweden, a first class charterer, for two years at a net rate of $28,000 per day to commence upon delivery, which is expected to take place by early November of this year."
With the addition of this new vessel, the Company's fleet will be comprised of one Capesize and seven Panamax bulk carriers aggregating almost 675,000 deadweight tons. Three of the seven vessels in the Company's initial fleet were delivered during the first week of June and the remaining four are expected to be delivered by August 2007.
About OceanFreight Inc.
OceanFreight Inc. was incorporated on September 11, 2006 under the laws of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Company was formed to acquire an initial fleet of seven secondhand drybulk carriers and has just entered into an agreement to acquire an eighth secondhand drybulk carrier. The Company maintains its headquarters in Athens, Greece, and will also maintain an office in New York.
On April 30, 2007, OceanFreight closed its initial public offering of 12,362,500 common shares, including common shares issued pursuant to the underwriters' over-allotment option, at a price of $19.00 per share. The Company's total outstanding equity also includes 2,060,000 subordinated shares.
OceanFreight's common shares trade on the NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol "OCNF."
Visit our website at www.oceanfreightinc.com
Source: http://www.marketwire.com/2.0/release.do?id=746259


Euroseas Ltd. Announces Pricing of Public Offering
---06/29/07 Maroussi, Athens, Greece, June 29, 2007 - Euroseas Ltd. (NASDAQ: ESEA), an owner and operator of drybulk carriers, container ship and multipurpose vessels and provider of seaborne transportation for drybulk and containerized cargoes, announced today that its public offering of 5,000,000 shares of common stock was priced at $13.50 per share. Euroseas has granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 750,000 shares of common stock to cover over-allotments, if any.
The Company intends to use the net proceeds of the offering to acquire additional vessels in the sectors in which it currently operates and for general corporate purposes.
Oppenheimer & Co. acted as the lead manager in the offering and Ferris, Baker Watts, Incorporated, Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. and Fortis Securities LLC acted as co-managers.
A registration statement relating to these securities was declared effective by the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 16, 2007. This release shall not constitute an offer to sell, or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation, or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such jurisdiction. The common stock offering may be made only by means of a prospectus, copies of which may be obtained by contacting Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., 125 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004.
Source: Press Releases, http://www.euroseas.gr/press_releases.html?irp=pr2&relid=46420


Laskaridis emerges as buyer of Zodiac quintet
---Laskaridis Shipping of Greece has emerged as the buyer of the five reefers sold by the Ofer group's Zodiac Maritime Agencies.
Sources close to the deal say Laskaridis has bought the 408,200-cbf Atlas Mountains (built 1982), 401,800-cbf Andes Mountains and 410,000-cbf Green Mountain (both built 1983) and 408,500-cbf Ural Mountains and 438,802-cbf Mulungisi (both built 1984).
The price is said to be around $32m to $33m.
The deal was reported last week without a buyer and linked to Baltic Shipping of St Petersburg at a slightly higher $35m.
The purchase lifts the Laskaridis fleet to around 75 ships, of which 65 are reefers.
TradeWinds understands that the ships will be commercially managed by the Laskaridis office in Athens and set to work in the group's fish industrial set-up.
Its Greek office has until now operated around 40 reefers controlled by Laskaridis with the remaining fleet being commercially managed by the Alpha tanker pool in Hamburg.
The Laskaridis group holds interests in a number of sectors, including its recent entry in Greece's passenger-shipping sector. Last week, the company announced the acquisition of a 22.25% stake in Minoan Lines of Greece worth $126.9m. Until recently, the Greek owner held 4.38% of the Crete-based passengership company.
This week, Laskaridis announced a fleet-expansion project for Minoan that will either involve two newbuilding contracts or secondhand purchases.
For Zodiac, the sale of the five reefers represents an exit from the sector. The company lists a diverse fleet of 133 LPG carriers, bulkers, boxships and general cargoships.
A month ago, Zodiac sold another seven Phoenix-class reefers to Seatrade Groningen for a reported $75m and another two to Baltic Shipping of St Petersburg for some $15m.
Yiota Gousas Athens published: 29 June 2007
Source: www.tradewinds.no


Calypso Marine pleads guilty
Source: Fairplay Daily News, 27 Jun 2007