First Ship Lease Closes $100m Mezzanine Financing

Friday, January 09, 2004
First Ship Lease Ltd., a commercial finance company focused on diverse shipping assets, today announced the successful completion of a $100 million mezzanine financing facility. The mezzanine facility, combined with previous equity financing and senior debt to be raised on a transactional basis, allows First Ship Lease to provide in excess of $500 million in operating and finance leases to shipping and industrial companies that meet its credit criteria.

The mezzanine financing was fully underwritten by BTM Capital Corporation of Boston, a subsidiary of Japan's premier bank, The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Ltd.; Germany-based HSH Nordbank AG, the world's largest ship mortgage lender; and Vereins -und Westbank Group, a subsidiary of Germany's second-largest bank, HypoVereinsbank. BTM Capital served as lead arranger.

Two major German financial institutions -- Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau (KfW) and Landesbank Hessen-Thueringen (Helaba) -- as well as a French bank, Natexis Banques Populaires, participated in the syndication. KfW is the world's second-largest ship lender, after HSH Nordbank. Helaba and Natexis are among the largest banks in Germany and France, respectively, with sizeable ship-financing interests.

"First Ship Lease's ongoing ability to secure financing from institutions with strong records of serving the maritime industry affirms the value and competitiveness of our unique ship finance offerings," said Frederick M. Gutterson, Chairman of First Ship Lease. "In addition to the commitment from our initial equity investors, we're pleased to have been able to attract strong interest from a distinguished group of leading financial institutions. Our initial capital formation objectives have now been achieved."

"First Ship Lease has developed a financing product that we believe will be of strong interest to a substantial portion of the shipping industry, and we're pleased to have led the underwriting and arrangement of this mezzanine facility," said John F. King, Senior Vice President, BTM Capital Corporation. "BTM looks forward to a long and expansive relationship with the Company as shipping and industrial companies take advantage of First Ship Lease's flexible, 100 percent financing option."

Michel Degermann, Head of Shipping & Land Transportation Finance for Natexis Banques Populaires, commented, "We are pleased to have participated in the syndication of the mezzanine facility and are committed to working with the Company in the future. We are extremely impressed with the leasing structures First Ship Lease has created as well as the shipping and commercial finance experience of its management team and board. As the broader shipping industry increasingly embraces leasing, First Ship Lease's ability to cost-effectively enable companies to preserve equity capital and balance-sheet strength should enable them to excel in this industry."

First Ship Lease, the only leasing company exclusively focused on the maritime industry that provides flexible and cost-effective, non-tax driven products, launched its services in October 2003 with $45 million in equity financing principally from HSH Nordbank AG, Vereins -und Westbank Group, and Schoeller Holdings Ltd. First Ship Lease attributes include reasonable transaction costs, flexible lease structures and allowing clients to retain operational control of their ships. The firm will focus on modern, high-quality assets, a majority of which will be governed by operating leases on diverse but standardized vessels that include tankers, container vessels and dry-bulk carriers.

"Given the realization of our initial capitalization targets, we are now positioned to consummate lease transactions," said Philip Clausius, president of First Ship Lease. "Discussions are already underway with a number of interested parties."

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