Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd agreed to buy its larger rival Quintana Maritime Ltd for $2.45 billion, including debt, to become the largest dry-bulk shipper listed in the US. Excel will pay $13, as well as 0.4084 Excel share, for each Quintana share. That equals about $26.48 a share based on yesterday’s closing price, Hamilton, Bermuda-based Excel said yesterday in a statement. The price is 57 percent above Quintana’s close yesterday. The purchase creates «one of the largest platforms in a fragmented industry,» Excel Chairman Gabriel Panayotides said in a conference call. Excel will acquire Glyfada, Greece-based Quintana’s fleet and long-term time-charter coverage. Quintana in the third-quarter operated 29 ships and is awaiting delivery of eight more vessels over the next two years. The company said at that time its fleet was 90 percent booked for 2008 and 80 percent booked in 2009. Quintana rose $4.08, or 24 percent, to $20.97, at 9.35 a.m. in Nasdaq stock market composite trading. Excel fell $4, or 12 percent, to $29 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The acquisition has been agreed to by the boards of both companies, which ship commodities including iron ore, grain and coal. Excel said the total value of the transaction was $2.45 billion, which includes Quintana debt. The purchase could close in the second quarter. Bulk rates slump Bulk-shipping rates have slumped 49 percent from a record in November amid delays in annual price talks between Chinese steelmakers and iron-ore producers and concern that the US and Chinese economies are slowing. Quintana in October said it hired financial advisers, suggesting it may put itself up for sale. On January 8, TradeWinds magazine reported the company accepted a $27-per-share offer from Excel. Quintana last week said it would remain an independent company after not receiving offers that were financially attractive enough. The $26.48-a-share purchase price could be changed if the average closing price of Excel shares exceeds $45 a share in the 15 trading days prior to the acquisition’s completion, Excel said. The combined company will operate 55 ships, with almost 5.2 million tons of dead-weight tonnage.