Haji-Ioannou Considers Buying Osprey's Clean Tankers

Thursday, January 04, 2001
Airline chief Stelios Haji-Ioannou's tanker company Stelmar has abandoned its bid for the First International fleet of clean tankers and is now reportedly considering those of Singapore-listed Osprey Maritime, Reuters reported. "Stelmar is looking at the Osprey ships, because the deal with First International is now looking too messy and too time-consuming," a New York-based source told Reuters. Stelmar's London office declined to comment. Shipping magnate John Fredriksen, whose World Shipholding Group holds a 54 percent stake in Osprey, announced in late December that he planned to sell off Osprey's 14 clean tankers to generate cash to invest in gas carriers. The source said that U.S. bondholders, who had put up the bulk of the finance behind the First International tankers, would be angered by the loss of the Stelmar deal. "Stelmar's offer to First International was $20 million over the fleet's market value," he said. First International's fleet of six clean tankers came onto the market this year when long-term charterer notified First International that it would not renew a lease that had run for seven years. First International said it was at this point that it started negotiating with Stelmar, which was set up in 1992 by Haji-Ioannou, owner of cut-price airline easyJet. Before the deal could be closed, however, one of First International's lenders, Berliner Bank, unexpectedly called in a $10 million loan, saying the termination of the Shell charter put First International into default. Although First International initially challenged Berliner's move, its high-profile chairman Paul Slater failed to attend a court hearing in December on the advice of his solicitors. Industry sources told Reuters on Wednesday Slater was now preparing to defend First International in the Bermudan courts, where it is registered.

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