ECONOMY

More shippers eye listings

Many oceangoing shipping companies under Greek management have set sail for foreign stock markets, mainly those in the US, hoping to raise capital and realize plans for the modernization of their fleets and further expansion of their activities. Raising capital on stock markets works in parallel and complements the funding agreements shippers conclude with major banks. During 2006, according to XRTC, the shipping consultant of French bank NATIXIS, Greek shipping companies borrowed -46.3 billion from banks, while the amount of capital raised from public offerings reached some -2.5 billion. Of all 3,699 ships with a total capacity of 218,229,552 registered tons that belong to Greek companies, only 344 vessels of 21,286,773 registered tons in total belong to the 20 listed companies. XRTC data show that seven listed firms have lower stock prices than at the time of their IPO. The year with the highest number and volume of IPOs was 2005, when eight companies completed their listing, including two on the LSE. Still, despite the trend in which shipping companies are increasingly turning to stock markets, the number of those listed continues to be comparatively small. Of the few which have been listed, some have achieved notable successes following their admittance, thereby attracting the interest and attention of investors, particularly in the US. Capital Product Partners LP and Stealth Gas are two such examples. Capital Product was the first Greek company to be listed in the US stock market in 2007 at a price above range, and went on to gain 24 percent in the first hour of trading. Particularly strong demand from major investment firms covered the public offering more than 10 times, which is considered a record, breaking that set by Teekay Shipping, which was oversubscribed eight times. Stealth Gas has managed to raise the price of its stock by 50 percent in the last few months. When it started in 1999, it owned 15 ships but now controls more than 70 vessels, including those under construction. Internationally, Stealth Gas is the only company active in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) shipping that is listed. Its activities in this field have certainly grown rapidly. In just two years the number of LPG vessels under its management has risen from four to 34. With these 34 ships it controls 13 percent of the Handysize LPG market and 32 of the vessels are time-chartered to oil majors and oil traders.