ECONOMY

Minoan to absorb MFD and sell Forthnet stake

In the coming months, passenger coastal shipping company Minoan Lines is due to take full control of Hellas Flying Dolphins, known previously as Minoan Flying Dolphins and owner of the ferry Samina Express which sank with the loss of 80 lives in September 2000. It is also expected to withdraw from IT company Forthnet in which it holds a minor stake. All indications show that Minoan Lines will absorb HFD via an exchange of shares. This is expected to be a complicated process as under the previous chief executive, Pantelis Sfinias, a number of mutual funds got involved. It is useful to know which mutual funds held HFD stocks prior to the tragic sinking of the Samina Express off Paros and when the company was planning to list on the Athens Stock Exchange. The mutual funds owning HFD equity are as follows: Alico International Balanced (20,000 shares); Alico Domestic Equity (200,000 shares); HSBC Growth (247,500 shares); Interamerican Growth Companies (1.44 million shares); Interamerican Strong Domestic Equity (1.3 million shares); Interamerican Growth Domestic Bonds (150,000); Chios Small Cap Domestic Equity (30,000); Alpha Growth Domestic Equity (772,530); Alpha Dynamic Domestic Equity (502,046); Alpha Balanced Domestic (50,000); Alpha Family Growth Fund (34,500); Delphi Small-Cap Domestic Equity (450,000); Delphi Domestic Equity (25,900); Delphi Growth Domestic (24,500); Dilos Blue Chips (344,546); Proteus (Piraeus) (74,000); and Triton (Piraeus) (36,878). HFD currently has debts of 70 million euros. Of its 74 vessels, only 50 are left to cover all the routes which it services while 25 crafts have been withdrawn either to be sold off or to be scrapped. Minoan Lines has announced its intention to withdraw from Forthnet by July 15. It is selling its 21.3-percent stake or 3.19 million shares via EFG Eurobank Stock Brokerage. Minoan’s total liabilities in 2002 amounted to 721.1 million euros, of which 487.3 million euros were long-term liabilities and the remaining 233.8 million euros were short-term debts. It had revenues of 179.5 million euros against 36.6 million in 2001. It posted losses of 13.6 million and 25.1 million euros in 2001 and 2002 respectively. Replying to bourse authorities on its losses last year, the company said the negative results of the last two years in contrast to the operating result were due to several reasons. The first and principal reason was the increase in financing and amortisation costs following the delivery of newbuildings which were chiefly funded by bank loans. Another reason was the increase in one-off and non-core expenditure related to the company’s operations. For this year, Minoan said it will be the first time that it will be servicing routes with new vessels. It expects to see a rise in revenues and operating profits. The sale of property assets this year is expected to reduce significantly its debts and amortisation costs, which should put the company back on track to profits. Amortisation costs this year are estimated at about 70 million euros which Minoan will service from its operating profits in combination with the estimated 60 million euros in proceeds from the sale of old vessels which should be completed shortly.