Shipping firms eye listing

An increasing number of Greek shipowners are expressing their interest in listing their companies on international stock exchanges, with a marked preference for New York’s NASDAQ. Some of the shipowners, especially those belonging to the new generations, are willing to use methods such as the acquisition of an already listed company to act as a shell rather than go through the time-consuming procedure of a regular IPO. An example of this tactic is Adventure Holdings, a shipping company owned by brothers Giorgos and Stathis Gourdomichalis, which is going to acquire 71.6 percent of listed company Trinity Partners Acquisitions Co Inc., which has long functioned as a «special purpose» acquisitions firm. Adventure Holdings was founded in April 2004 and owns two dry bulk cargo ships. It came about as a result of the dissolution of Free Ships, a company set up in 2000 by the Gourdomichalis brothers and the Vernicos shipowning family with the purpose of listing it on the Athens Stock Exchange. However, no merchant shipping companies have yet been listed on the ASE because restrictions against their listing as independent companies, rather than as subsidiaries, have not been lifted. By acquiring Trinity, Adventure Holdings will avoid up to two months of bureaucratic hassling over an IPO. The Gourdomichalis family wants at some point to expand its fleet but has not made public any more specific goals as to the size and age of ships the company will seek to buy. The only certain thing, as the Adventure Holdings owners themselves told trade paper TradeWinds, is that they plan to continue being active in the dry bulk cargo business. During the last quarter of 2004, Adventure Holdings’ net income reached $2.1 million. Its two ships are Free Destiny, a 25,200-ton deadweight carrier, launched in 1982, and Free Envoy, 26,300 dwt, launched in 1984. Both ships were acquired last year from Barclay Shipping for a total of $17.5 million. According to analysts, using a shell company to list on a bourse is an ideal tactic for small and medium-sized shipping companies so that they can take swift advantage of the current favorable climate in international markets. Many foreign investors are looking forward to buying shares in Greek firms, lured by the excellent results posted by oceangoing shipping firms the past two years. New York IPO Not all Greek shippers will use this tactic, however. Giorgos Economou, for example, the scion of the well-known shipping family, has created a new company, DryShips, which will be active in the dry bulk sector. Economou will make a public offer of company shares rather than use a shell company. According to the IPO prospectus recently submitted to the NASDAQ authorities, the capital DryShips will get through the IPO will be used to acquire a total of 11 ships, including six already owned by Economou family companies. DryShips is expected to spend a total of $322 million on the 11 ships (one capesize bulker, eight panamax and two handymax). Added to DryShips’ existing fleet of one capesize and five panamax ships, it will create a fleet that can carry a total of 1.3 million dwt and the ships will be 13 years old, on average. Following the IPO, Economou will still hold 64 percent of the shares.

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