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Frontline to merge with Euronav

Exchange ratio of 1.45 Frontline shares for every Euronav share will see Euronav and Frontline shareholders owning approximately 59% and 41%, respectively, of the combined group, the companies say

Combined company to be worth $4.2bn, with a fleet of 69 very large crude carriers, 57 suezmax vessels and 20 long range two aframax tankers

FRONTLINE, the tanker giant owned by John Fredriksen, says that its board has approved an all-stock merger with rival Euronav, valuing the combined company at $4.2bn and surpassing China’s Cosco as the largest owner of very large crude carriers.

The combined group would see Euronav stockholders owning 59% and Frontline the remaining share of the company, which will continue trading as Frontline.

“A combination of Frontline and Euronav would establish a market leader in the tanker market and position the combined group for continued shareholder value creation in addition to significant synergies,” Mr Fredriksen said in a statement.

“The new Frontline would be able to offer value-enhancing services for our customers and increase fleet utilisation and revenues, which would benefit all stakeholders. I am very excited and give my full support and commitment to this combined platform.” 

The company’s combined fleet will comprise 69 very large crude carriers, 57 suezmax vessels, and 20 long range two aframax vessels.

This would make it the largest owner of both VLCCs and suezmaxes, overtaking Greek-owned private fleets and national owners in Saudi Arabia, Iran and China.

Frontline tops the owning list for the 862-strong fleet of VLCCs, surpassing Chinese-government controlled Cosco, which has 50 VLCCs and China Merchants, with 54 ships, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data.

Bahri has 42 and National Iranian Tanker Co has 37.

 

 

The announcement ends months of speculation that the two companies would merge, which intensified after Mr Fredriksen began buying shares in Euronav over 2021, controlling 9% of stock by March, 2022.

Marc Saverys and sons Alexander, Ludovic and Michael extended their stake in Euronav to 10% in the past months, spending $198m to re-engage with the company after divesting the majority of their shareholdings two years earlier.

The price for the stock-for-stock combination is based on an exchange ratio of 1.45 Frontline shares for every Euronav share.

 

 

Hugo De Stoop will remain as the chief executive. The board of directors will comprise the following: three current independent Euronav board members, two nominated by the Fredriksen holding company Hemen Holding Limited and two additional new independent directors.

“Frontline’s largest shareholder, Hemen, and related companies owning shares in Euronav, have committed to support the potential transaction,” the release said.

“This transaction would form a powerful combination at an exciting point in the cycle,” added Frontline chief executive Lars Barstad.

Mr De Stoop said: “This transaction would mark an exciting development for the tanker industry, creating a leading tanker company that would be positioned to serve the needs of customers, support partners and drive technology and sustainability initiatives to lead the energy transition.”

A protracted slump in earnings for the global tanker fleet saw Euronav post a record quarterly loss of $105m in 2021’s third quarter and $338.7m over the year.

The VLCC and suezmax fleets have been the most affected after oil-producing companies in the Middle East Gulf decided not to increase levels of crude to the export markets after slashing production from April 2020 to arrest falling crude prices.

The Middle East Gulf-Asia route employs about 80% of VLCCs, with Chinese imports contracting for the first time in 20 years over 2021, further depressing earnings for the biggest tankers.

Consolidation in the global tanker market has been long anticipated after the sector experienced one of its most challenging earning environments, with a protracted slump in spot rates spanning more than 15 months.

Earnings for the largest crude tankers averaged the lowest in nearly 20 years over the last half of 2021, as the recovery in oil demand growth stalled against a backdrop of continued outbreaks of Covd-19 variants.

The largest listed tanker companies lost more than $1bn in 2021, with Euronav among the largest losers as its fleet of VLCCs and suezmaxes earned below cash-breakeven levels as the supply of tankers outpaced demand.

A merger between the two companies was first sought as far back as 1999, when Mr Fredriksen was involved in forming the Tankers International pool of VLCCs in which both Euronav and Frontline participated.

Frontline VLCCs are no longer listed in the Tankers International pool website, while Euronav vessels are. Whether these vessels will rejoin the existing 56 VLCCs listed on the pool website has not been specified.

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