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From the News Desk: Major players push on with company restructuring

Speculation is rife over the futures of Fredriksen Group and GP Global, while brokers are hired to handle sale of Hin Leong Trading tankers

Norwegian billionaire John Fredriksen has given the clearest signal yet about the future direction of his shipping empire, as Dubai-based GP Global hits out at the ‘sharks’ circling the company’s assets as it continues to restructure

TWO former fund managers have joined John Fredriksen’s private investment vehicle with a mandate to restructure and invest outside shipping and oil and gas.

The move has led to speculation that the owner is considering a private equity buyer for the entire portfolio.

Tor A Svelland, a Norwegian hedge fund manager, started as chief executive of Seatankers Group on August 28, alongside former investment director of ODIN Fund Management, Vegard Soraunet.

The Seatankers Group, incorporating Golden Ocean Group, Frontline, FlexLNG, FSL Corp, Avance Gas and Seadrill has wide exposure across the offshore, maritime and shipping sector, taking in bulk carriers, crude tankers, liquefied natural gas, containership and liquefied petroleum gas vessels.

It is owned by the Fredriksen Family Trusts.

The new appointments indicate Mr Fredriksen, 76, is moving to establish a diversified, professionally run fund that he can leave to his twin daughters Cecilie and Kathrine, who have shown little appetite for running the all-consuming business.

Lloyd’s List understands that at least three separate funds have recently been making discreet inquiries about Mr Fredriksen’s businesses seeking informed guesses regarding valuation.

The diversified fleet of some 225 ships is valued at $10.61bn according to maritime analytics firm VesselsValue, the lowest in records going back to 2012. Some $1.77bn has already been slashed from values since the coronavirus outbreak. Back in 2014, VesselsValue placed a $18.51bn price on the Fredriksen shipping empire.

Famously known for making decisions based on his gut, rather than spreadsheets, the billionaire first suggested he was ready to wind down his involvement in shipping two years ago but has given little clues on the timing since then.

He has previously said that much of his money is no longer invested with shipping and offshore businesses. Some $3bn is placed with US-based Lone Star Funds, a private equity fund which manages some $85bn and in which he is said to be among one of the largest limited partners.

Mr Fredriksen declined to comment and Mr Svelland told Lloyd’s List it was too early to talk about the new vision for the Fredriksen group.

Unpaid invoices and unresolved issues

Elsewhere, embattled Dubai-based oil and bunker trader GP Global has hit out at “sharks” seeking a distressed asset sell-off amid a flurry of reports questioning the company’s financial health.

The company, a major bunker player with terminals at Fujairah and Hamriyah and a fleet of eight tankers, is two months into a restructuring process that has seen it shut down some trading desks after lenders withdrew lines of credit in the wake of coronavirus and banks started pulling back from commodity and trade finance.

While it insists that some trading activity is continuing with the support of “the vast majority” of company stakeholders, internal GP Global sources have told Lloyd’s List that this activity is limited.

Last week, National Bank of Fujairah arrested one of the company’s bunker tankers, GPB3, at Pipavav port in India over unpaid invoices.

There is also the unresolved issue of an internal fraud investigation in which the company’s own legal representatives warned clients late last month that GP Global employees had “colluded with external entities… to defraud the company and its customers”.

Despite the turbulence, GP Global officials insist that the restructuring is on track.

Finally, the court-appointed supervisors of Hin Leong Trading’s shipowning affiliates are said to have appointed Clarksons and Arrow Shipbroking as exclusive brokers to handle the sales of tankers tied to loans from six international banks.

Sources said that Grant Thornton Singapore, which was appointed in August as interim judicial managers of five Xihe Group entities, has identified seven tankers for the planned vessel sales.

The earmarked tankers include three very large crude carriers, namely the 2009-built Tai San, the 2010-built Tai Hung San and the 2011-built Pu Tuo San.

Four product tankers that are also being put up for sale are the 2002-built Ocean Victory, the 2009-built Bei Jiang, the 2008-built Ocean Trader and the 2009-built Ocean Pegasus.

Credit Agricole, DvB Bank and OCBC Bank as banks backing loans to the VLCCs and three other involved lenders — Standard Chartered, Hamburg Commercial Bank and Bank of America — are said to have granted consent for the appointment of the shipbrokers and the planned vessel sales.

All seven tankers are now anchored in waters bordering Singapore and Malaysia, Lloyd’s List Intelligence vessel tracking data shows.

Lloyd’s List Awards

Entries are still coming in for this year’s Lloyd’s List Awards and we have therefore decided to extend the submission deadline to September 25.

The adaptability and sheer determination of companies and seafarers to keep the world moving is a theme that has run through Lloyd’s List’s reporting this year. That is why we have set aside our usual awards portfolio and are offering the Lloyd’s List Awards 2020 as a platform for those stories to be told.

A revised list of categories and criteria has been created to recognise not only high standards in maritime, but also the resilience and innovation shown by the industry in the face of unprecedented adversity.

These are challenging times, but there are positives to take from this global shock.

The Lloyd’s List Awards are an opportunity to showcase those advances and start to raise the profile of shipping as the world’s essential industry.

For further information on the categories and criteria, judging panel and more, follow the links in this article, or select the banner below to start the process of submitting your entry.

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