Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 05 - 2008
---By Nigel Lowry in Athens - Thursday 31 January 2008
GREEK shipowners placed $32bn worth of newbuilding contracts last year, dwarfing activity in 2006 when orders worth $16.7bn made that easily the biggest year for Greek orders.
The number of vessels last year also witnessed an enormous leap in activity, with a total 556 ships ordered by Greeks versus 322 the year before, not including options.
The broker hinted that $32bn could be a conservative tally, saying that it had expected a total of close to $38bn.
Moundreas confirmed impressions that for Greek owners the year was biased towards dry bulk carrier orders.
Almost six times as much bulker tonnage than tanker capacity was added to the Greek orderbook.
Until December 2006 tankers had been dominating Greek newbuilding interest for several years.
The surprise of the year, though, was arguably the Greek involvement in 51 container ship orders, with 17 belonging to the 10,000 teu plus size while another 17 were in the 6,500-8,500 teu range.
Other Greek orders saw contracts for 15 liquefied petroleum gas carriers and six vehicle carriers.
According to the Moundreas report, compiled by senior consultant George Banos, most shipbuilders now have comfortable orderbooks and are likely to keep the upper hand in negotiations.
The upsurge of interest in newbuilding orders among Greek shipowners is illustrated by the fact that, prior to 2006, the record year was deemed to be 2003 when owners committed $6.9bn on 202 vessels.
Globus Maritime awarded "International IPO of the Year"
Globus Maritime Limited ("Globus" or "the Company") (AIM: GLBS), a global provider of seaborne transportation services for dry bulk cargoes, is pleased to announce that on January 30, 2008, the Company received the award for the International IPO of the Year at the annual ceremony of the Quoted Company Awards. The ceremony was held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.
Source: Press Release,1 February 2008
Alba touting 20 cape newbuilds
---The company is denying such talks but a secret bank document seems to suggest the opposite.
Alba Maritime Services, one of the brightest stars of last year's raging sale-and-purchase (S&P) market, is secretly circulating a fleet of 20 capesize newbuildings for sale amid rumours of credit problems.
Some brokers suggest the ships are worth around $2.1bn, a level that would generate a substantial profit as they were ordered for between $82m and $107m each.
Alba's 16 panamaxes booked at India's Pipavav Shipyard are not part of the sale.
The Tsangaris family-backed company is flatly denying it is actively seeking a fleet sale.
Alba tells TradeWinds that it is exploring a possible initial public offering (IPO) as its newbuildings start to be delivered, as well as other more unusual strategies.
But in documents TradeWinds has seen, Alba is soliciting offers for "a portion or all of its 20 capesize-newbuilding fleet".
This tally comprises eight of a charter-free 10-ship series at South Korea's STX Shipbuilding and a 12-ship series at compatriot Sungdong Shipyard, nine of which have been chartered for between five and 12 years.
Some financial sources suggest looming credit problems with the massive 38-strong newbuilding programme led Athens and New York-based Alba to call in Loli Wu and his Citibank shipping unit, fresh from its successful drive to sell Quintana Maritime.
Alba chief executive Sotiris Dushas and chief strategy officer Pankaj Khanna deny such talk.
Sources at all three shipbuilders unanimously confirm Alba and its affiliates have made all the scheduled payments with no problems or delays. Some of the orders have reached the second-installment stage and others will do so shortly.
Khanna cites confidentiality agreements for declining to give details of the debt-financing arrangements but he characterises them as "conventional". He told TradeWinds: "We are very comfortable in the [financial] situation we are in.
"It's just like when I was at Teekay. We were constantly coming up with new, innovative ways to improve our financing."
Dushas goes further, saying of the company's credit arrangements: "We are covered on 100% of the ships at least through to delivery. That doesn't mean we've drawn down on all of that yet."
A number of the ships are financed under bilateral bank loans, while others, under construction at a South Korean yard for South Korean end-users, are financed by a lead bank working with local banks.
Dushas denies Alba is actively working on a fleet sale but says he would be happy enough to do so. The problem is that he has not had any reasonable offers.
"The commercial environment is probably not right for that right now," he said.
Dushas adds that Citibank was brought in to consult on a possible IPO further down the road. He adds that Alba also hired fellow Teekay veteran and former Simpson, Spence&Young (SSY) broker Khanna to help explore that and other strategic options.
One of these involves an innovative plan to use the uncommitted STX capesizes in a venture that would guarantee a base rate for the owner but also allow equity participation by the end-users.
Some shipowners and pundits who see the vast dry-bulk orderbook as soft have predicted a contraction as unproved owners and shipbuilders feel the squeeze from bankers and the markets.
But Dushas says a contraction is less likely to come from owners than from unproven yards, which are better at taking orders than delivering the finished ship part of the reason Alba has backed away from China.
Under its former name of Anemi Shipping Services, Alba is best known for having ordered a long series of supramaxes at China's Dayang, securing ultra long-term charters for most of them and then selling 26 units to Eagle Bulk Shipping in July 2007 for $1.1bn, netting some $200m.
Since then, Alba's affiliates, Avgi Maritime Services and Avra Maritime Services, have accumulated, respectively, 16 panamaxes on order in India and 22 capesizes on order at STX and Sundong.
The panamaxes, which are not part of the Citibank sale project, all have long-term employment.
Three Sungdong capesizes are going to South Korea's Hanjin Shipping for 10 years at $30,500 per day with an equal profit split if market rates top $38,500 per day. Two one-year options are included.
Korea Line has taken a trio for 12 years at the same base rate and a profit split if rates go above $37,500 per day.
Singapore's Glory Wealth has taken three ships, two at $38,000 per day and one at $38,900 per day.
Despite Dushas's denials, a confidential document issued by Citibank this week advised prospective buyers that Alba's capesizes are on the sales block.
"Preference will be given to bids for the entire Sungdong fleet or the combined Sungdong and STX fleet," Citibank wrote.
A four-man executive team including Dushas, Khanna, Quinn Dawson and Konstantine Pilinos could be part of the deal. All but technical boss Pilinos have backgrounds from Teekay.
"The company offers substantial operating and technical expertise and is willing to entertain discussions to engage in an ongoing partnership," Citibank added.
The bank is asking for expressions of interest to be received by 8 February.
Investment bank Jefferies advised on the sale of Anemi to Eagle Bulk last summer and shipowner sources tell TradeWinds that Alba was circulating its entire newbuilding fleet through another US investment bank late last year before moving on to Citibank.
Meanwhile, Dushas dismisses as premature a report that Alba has definitely extended its capesize order at STX. He confirms the company has been among owners in talks over two capesize slots and may eventually secure them. But he says the yard's announcement jumped the gun.
By Bob Rust,Irene Ang,Pinaki Routray and Gillian Whittaker, Stamford, Singapore, Mumbai and Athens, published: 01 February 2008
Excel springs surprise with Quintana deal
---By Robert Wright, Transport Correspondent
Published: 29/1/2008 | Last Updated: 29/1/2008 19:40 London Time
A Greek shipowner listed on the New York stock exchange is set to become one of the world's largest operators of dry bulk ships after it agreed a $2.45bn takeover of a smaller rival.
The deal, under which Excel Maritime will take over Quintana Maritime, is a surprise, since Quintana announced only last week that it was terminating its sale process after a sharp decline in charter rates for dry bulk ships.
Stamatis Molaris, Quintana's chief executive and president, said Excel had approached Quintana with the offer over the weekend. At the time of last week's announcement, there was no offer on the table, he said.
The deal is surprisingly little changed in overall value from the $27-a-share deal that Lloyd's List, the shipping daily, said Excel had previously planned to offer for Quintana.
The deal appeared to have been scuppered by the fall of more than 40 per cent in the Baltic Dry Index of dry bulk freight rates since November.
The fall has produced a sharp drop-off in the share price of both companies.
The new deal is valued at $26.48 a share at Excel's $33 closing price on Monday. It will pay $13 cash and 0.4084 Excel A shares for each Quintana share.
The combined company will have one of the world's largest dry bulk fleets, with 47 vessels and a capacity of 3.7m deadweight tonnes. Excel will also inherit Quintana's orders for eight capesize vessels - the largest class of dry bulk ships - of 1.5m dwt.
Mr Molaris said that while market conditions had complicated the deal, it was justified by the dry bulk market's long-term prospects.
Quintana's shares were trading as high as $21.82, from their previous close of $16.89. Excel's shares fell as low as $28.65 from $33.
Restis emerges as Greece's domestic shipping faces overhaul
---As John Vardinoyiannis moves to the verge of gaining control of Crete's Anek Lines and Italy's Grimaldi group places both feet firmly in the Greek seatransportation sector and powerful new player emerges, Greece's domestic shipping landscape appears to be in for yet another major overhaul.
No sooner than it was confirmed that Grimaldi had sold its 15.26% holding in Anek Lines to the Vardinoyiannis-controlled, Cyprus-listed, Sea Star Capital (SSC) for EUR48m ($70.7m) and in turn SSC had sold its 26.71% stake in Crete's other major company Minoan Lines to the Italian group for EUR100m, than it was confirmed the Restis Group will splash EUR20m in taking a 12% stake in the key player, Sea Star Capital.
While Vardinoyiannis, who is the md of the Athens Stock Exchange-listed Anek, strengthens his position at Anek, more significantly, Grimaldi not only gained a say in the future of the well-managed Athens Stock Exchange-listed Minoan's future, but also in that of the country's biggest ferry operator, Hellenic Seaways, which is 33.4% owned by Minoan, and was 36% owned by SSC. As Grimaldi already had a 3.05% stake in Minoan it now has just under 30% and is seeking two seats on the company's board of directors.
The aggressive SSC had already made it known some EUR58m has been set aside to purchase stock in Anek "as soon as possible" so it appears the Anek purchase came at a lower price than anticipated. SSC, which has only been an active player in the shipping sector since last October, was already a stakeholder in Anek, and now has 32.5%, and harbors ambitions to strengthen its operations in the Aegean and Adriatic.
Likewise, the Grimaldi Group has stated it plans to expand operations in the Adriatic and international routes as it intends to be at the forefront of the creation of seacorridors in the wider Mediterranean.
Seen at the time as a move to stave-off the aspirations of the Italian group, December 11 the shipowning Laskaridis family sold its entire interest in the passenger shipping sector for EUR249.6m to SSC and Vardinoyiannis. The deal was thought to have opened the way for the consolidation of Crete's two major ferry companies, Anek and Minoan plus Hellenic Seaways under one roof as Laskaridis held a 34.7% stake in Piraeus-based Hellenic.
Minoan's long-serving ceo Antonis Maniadakis, in a statement "welcomed Grimaldi" saying the Italian company's decision "to invest in Minoan Lines, proves the strategy of the management correct and effective". The sale resulted in a EUR5.5m proft for SSC.
Grimaldi boss, Emanuele Grimaldi, has said the group is not interested in the Greek domestic services, where Hellenic Seaways is especially strong. Just where the current wheeling and dealing leaves the ambitious Hellenic remains to be seen, but Newsfront understands Marine and Island Policy minister, Giorgos Voulgarakis, is concerned and in the past has sought reassurances from Vardinoyiannis.
Grimaldi has said it will not interfere with the management of Minoan or Hellenic. While it has emphasised it is most interested in the international market, the Italian group does however, see Minoan's "Piraeus/Iraklion service as profitable".
The Victor Restis-led Restis group has declared itself a passive investor in SSC, both Vardinoyiannis and Restis talk of a "strategic alliance in the passenger ship sector".
Restis is known to have aspirations in the sector, especially in cruising, where it already has an involvement. Restis said its investment in SSC is based "on the belief in the future of Sea Star Capital, not only in passenger shipping in the Medirerranean, nut also in new activities". It is thought Restis would also back a bid by SSC to buy Grimaldi's Hellenic Seaways stake when, as expected, it becomes available. Lesvos based Nel Lines has also expressed an interest in acquirying this stake.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, Issue nr. 4 (1 February 2008) of Newsfront Greek Shipping Intelligence newsletter.
Angry Medcare drops Kouan newbuilds
Hellenic Shipyards Obtains Specialty Platform Contract
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Hellenic Shipyards SA, a unit of German industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp AG (TKA.XE), said Tuesday it has obtained a multimillion-euro contract to build a specialty platform for German engineering giant Hochtief Construction AG (HOT.XE).
The platform, designed for the construction of offshore windfarms, is the first contract by the struggling shipyard in what it hopes will be a major new market over the next 10 years.
"According to our estimates, some 40 to 50 such platforms will be needed in the next 10 years worldwide," Hellenic Shipyards Chief Operating Officer Thies Stueber said.
Stueber didn't disclose the exact value of the contract, but said it was in the tens of millions of euros.
The increased use of wind energy is seen as key part of the European Union's Kyoto Protocol commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Most windfarms in Europe are at relatively restricted onshore locations. But there is increasing interest in moving the wind turbines offshore - which would allow for larger windfarms that could take advantage of stronger and steadier seabreezes.
However, their construction requires a specialized platform or ship capable of erecting the turbines in waters up to 80 meters deep. There are less than a dozen such specialty vessels in operation worldwide, and less than half-a-dozen in Europe.
Stueber said plans for up to 160 offshore windfarms have been approved for various locations around the North Sea and the Baltic, 10 of which are already under construction.
Interest mounts in port container station operations
By Nikos Bardounias - Kathimerini
Seven companies have already got hold of the applications for the tender for the concession of container stations (SEMPO) at the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki.
Port workers yesterday staged a 24-hour strike and today the administration of the Piraeus Port Authority has invited unionists to enter into negotiations to find a solution and to stop their industrial action. Truck drivers have already suspended their strike and have begun to forward the thousands of containers that had amassed at the SEMPO at Ikonio, near Piraeus.
Regarding the Thessaloniki SEMPO, interest has reportedly been expressed by five companies, including Cosco, Dubai Ports World, Hutchinson Whampoa of Hong Kong and the Maersk Group through its Philippines-based subsidiary International Containers Terminal Services Inc. More companies are expected to express their interest in the next few days.
Next week the ministry will table in Parliament the bill that safeguards the employment status of Piraeus and Thessaloniki port authority workers.