Private Equity Spending Fuels Shipping Sector Risk

Joseph Keefe
Friday, May 09, 2014

Private equity has pumped $32 bln into shipping in past 2 years. Ships totaling 299 mln dwt to enter global fleet from May. Some private equity-backed shipping IPOs have been put off on weak sentiment.

The shipping industry faces a looming capacity glut as billions of dollars pumped into it by private equity have stoked a vessel-buying spree, threatening its prospects just as the sector is emerging from its worst downturn in three decades.

Backed by private equity and hedge fund financing, shipping companies have placed orders for thousands of new ships over the past two years, reminiscent of the ship-ordering binge of the mid-2000s that eventually led to overcapacity after the global financial crisis severely hit cargo demand.

The demand-supply equilibrium could tilt into overcapacity again from 2016, straining shipping companies' finances. It may also make private equity's exit from shipping less profitable, shipping experts said.

"Shipping is not a get-rich-quick business. By virtue of the capital that the private equity funds are pumping into shipping, they are in effect destroying the very prospects that they are chasing," said Jan Engelhardtsen, chief financial officer at Olso-listed tanker and terminals company Stolt Nielsen.

"Because the investment horizon for private equity is short-term and shipping is fundamentally long-term in nature, private equity's entry into shipping in most cases is never going to end well," Engelhardtsen told Reuters.

Private equity companies such as Oaktree Capital, Apollo Global Management and Blackstone Group have invested in tankers, container ships and bulk carriers, set up or acquired shipping companies and bought ships and shipping loan books from banks such as Germany's Commerzbank and British state-backed bank Royal Bank of Scotland.

Estimates vary, but maritime fund management company Tufton Oceanic says private equity has invested about $32 billion in shipping in the last two years.

Among major private equity shipping deals are Global Maritime Investments' move to invest in around 20 dry cargo ships. And Oaktree Capital Management bought into Star Bulk Carriers Corp last year, but later trimmed its holding. Star Bulk has 28 dry bulk ships, including 11 that are on order.

The current global ship order book is worth $297.6 billion although $110 billion remains unfunded, according to figures from Britain's Clarkson Research Services and Tufton Oceanic.

TONNAGE GLUT


The investment will help create a surge in ship deliveries with ships totaling 299 million deadweight tonne (dwt) due to enter the global fleet from May compared with a current global fleet of 1.7 billion dwt, according to Clarkson data.

Global seaborne trade, including commodity shipments, is expected to grow 4 percent in 2014, Clarkson has forecast. If trade growth remains at similar levels in the next two years, it will potentially create a supply glut of tonnage from 2016.

Ng Siu-fai, chairman of Oslo-listed dry cargo ship owner Jinhui Shipping and Transportation, in a reference to private equity, said the company had seen new participants placing new orders "with a primary, if not only, objective of speculative gain in asset price appreciation rather than working these.....assets for long-term positive cashflow".

But Albert Stein of debt and restructuring specialist AlixPartners in London, which advises private equity among others, said shipowners must share the blame for the coming glut.

"You can't blame private equity alone. (look at) who sold them the idea that the market's going to expand," said Stein.

IPOs HIT

Private equity firms typically have a three- to five-year investment horizon and exit through asset sales or initial public offerings.

"PE firms come in all shapes and sizes and have varying investment horizons. However, they're all trying to generate returns of 15 percent plus per annum, which restricts them to relatively short investment periods," said one Hong Kong-based ship financier.

New ship prices have been volatile over the past six years. For example, the price of a new 320,000 dwt supertanker was $105 million in 2010, but dropped to $93 million in 2012, while the current price is $101 million, according to Clarkson figures. Second-hand ship prices now are generally lower than in 2010.

"The majority of the PE who purchased tonnage in 2009-2011 will see healthy returns in the high teens to mid twenties if they can monetise their positions within the next 24 months," said Randee Day, president and chief executive of Day and Partners, a U.S. maritime consulting and advisory firm.

"Sophisticated private equity will not remain in exposed positions over the next 18-24 months," she said.

Weak public investor sentiment has led to the postponement of several shipping IPOs although several more IPOs, backed by long-term shipowner interests, are planned. Wilbur Ross' Diamond S Shipping Group cancelled its tanker IPO in March and Greece's Stalwart Tankers scrapped its IPO last month.

Uncertainty over the success of IPOs and a rise in asset prices has led some private equity to lengthen their investment time horizons.

"I suspect some firms have extended their hold periods on existing investments because it would have been unprofitable to exit at the originally envisaged time - you have to suspect the Diamond S/Wilbur Ross deal is in this category," said the Hong Kong financier.


By Keith Wallis

Maritime Reporter July 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

Reliance to Source Ethane from US

India's Reliance Industries Ltd said it will source 1.5 million metric tons of ethane a year from the United States as feedstock for its crackers in India. The

Dredge Yard to Participate in Latin American Congress of Ports

Dredge Yard announced it will for the first time participate in the Latin American Congress of Ports that will be held in less than a week in Puerto Iguazú in Argentina.

Panama Canal Updates Maersk on Expansion

Within the framework of the centennial celebration, the Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano received a Maersk Line delegation led by Søren Skou, CEO of Maersk Liner Business,

Contracts

Two MacGregor Subsea Cranes Ordered for Chinese PSVs

MacGregor, part of Cargotec, has secured a new contract from Chinese shipbuilder, Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding Ltd., for two 100-metric-ton active heave-compensated subsea MacGregor cranes.

Topaz Secures $75m Investment from SCPE

Topaz Energy and Marine, an offshore support vessel company with primary operations in the Caspian, Middle East, West Africa and Subsea operations in the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico,

Lukoil Shipped Canadian Crude from Houston

Russian oil major Lukoil has emerged as one of the first companies to buy Canadian crude re-exported from a U.S. port, shipping one cargo last month to its refinery in Augusta,

Shipbuilding

Two MacGregor Subsea Cranes Ordered for Chinese PSVs

MacGregor, part of Cargotec, has secured a new contract from Chinese shipbuilder, Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding Ltd., for two 100-metric-ton active heave-compensated subsea MacGregor cranes.

First Two Mooring Boats Launched for Port of Ras Laffan

Nakilat has celebrated the delivery of two 16-meter mooring boats built by shipbuilder Nakilat Damen Shipyards Qatar for towage operator Nakilat Svitzer Wijsmuller.

Doosan Delivers a ‘World’s First’ to NASSCO

Doosan Engine has confirmed delivery of the world’s first dual-fuel, low-speed ME-GI engine to the American National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego, USA.

Finance

Topaz Secures $75m Investment from SCPE

Topaz Energy and Marine, an offshore support vessel company with primary operations in the Caspian, Middle East, West Africa and Subsea operations in the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico,

Refiners Seek Jones Act Workarounds as Crude Export Debate Heats Up

As the first U.S. oil condensate exports head to Asia from the Gulf Coast, crude producers and refiners are exploring ways to get around a century-old law that

Lukoil Shipped Canadian Crude from Houston

Russian oil major Lukoil has emerged as one of the first companies to buy Canadian crude re-exported from a U.S. port, shipping one cargo last month to its refinery in Augusta,

 
 
Maritime Standards Naval Architecture Navigation Offshore Oil Pipelines Salvage Ship Repair Ship Simulators Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1729 sec (6 req/sec)