ECONOMY

Shipowners have a busy year

Greek-owned maritime companies have been quite active lately, confirming the fact that this year will be another good year for shipping. Last Friday, a small bulk-cargo company, Free Seas, was listed on New York’s NASDAQ at a time when larger Greek-owned companies, such as Golden Energy and Capital Maritime, did not dare to take the step due to adverse market conditions. Free Seas is owned by well-known shipowners Giorgos and Stathis Gourdomichalis and Ion Varouxakis. (Capital Maritime, another dry-bulk cargo company, which was to offer 16.7 million shares with Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns among its underwriters, canceled its IPO in late June. Capital Maritime’s unwillingness to price shares at a discount to its price range of $14 to $16 per share because of the company’s «built-in growth potential, strong balance sheet and belief in the future of the product tanker market» were said to be the reasons for the withdrawal). Free Seas accelerated its listing by using the frequently applied (in the US, at least) method of the stock market vehicle, that is, an already listed company that is no longer active. In this case, it was Trinity Partners Acquisition, whose merger with First Seas was completed last Friday. First Seas controls three handymax ships, Free Destiny, Free Envoy and Free Fighter, all 21-23 years old. Moves are not confined to the stock market, according to the sector’s publication TradeWinds. Recently, A.M. Nomicos sold two 135,000-ton ships (Capesize), the Atlas and Olympia, 15 and 16 years old, respectively, to Stamford Navigation, another Greek-owned company, as part of the strategy, which it began to implement two years old, to slowly sell off its older ships in order to take advantage of higher market prices for these ships. This strategy was to be consummated with the acquisition of 15 cargo ships by Top Tankers, a listed firm owned by Evangelos Pistiolis. Top Tankers was to pay $420 million for the acquisition by offering shares to the public, but the company’s board balked at a third public offer so soon after the first two and canceled the deal. Nomicos is now forced to sell its old ships piecemeal, but market conditions are not so favorable: According to market insiders, the two ships sold to Stamford Navigation are worth $27 million, whereas three months ago they could have fetched $36 million. At present, A.M. Nomicos controls 13 ships, and awaits delivery of two more, at 48-50,000 tons each, from Japanese shipyard IHI Marine United, early next year. Stamford Navigation now controls 22 ships, having been very active recently in the used ships market. Still, it, too, had sold two cargo ships, 149,000 and 45,000 tons, respectively, two months ago for $60 million.