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GOGL - Shipping chief sees expansion on horizon

34720 fcras 13/10 2010 09:48

By Robert Wright in London

Published: October 12 2010 22:27 | Last updated: October 12 2010 22:27

The chief executive of Golden Ocean, the dry bulk shipping company founded by John Fredriksen, has pledged to consider fresh ways of boosting its value after it sold two ships for shares in a Nasdaq-listed tanker company.

Herman Billung told the Financial Times that both Golden Ocean and Knightsbridge Tankers, to which it sold the ships, were keen to grow and it was only a question of finding the best way to do so. “I’m not ruling out anything,” he said.

The sale has left Golden Ocean as the biggest shareholder in Knightsbridge, with 10 per cent. Mr Fredriksen founded Knightsbridge as part of Frontline, the world’s largest tanker operator, but spun it off and currently holds no shares directly. Norwegian-born Mr Fredriksen, the most successful shipping entrepreneur of the past two decades, still holds 40 per cent of Golden Ocean’s shares.

The deals have been typical of Mr Fredriksen’s family of companies, which have grown by playing capital and financial markets more skilfully and innovatively than shipping companies have done in the past.

Golden Ocean had seen potential in Knightsbridge because it is listed in the US, where shipping companies tend to pay relatively high dividends, Mr Billung said. Golden Ocean is listed only in Oslo.

“We’re long term in Knightsbridge and we want to continue to develop the company,” Mr Billung said.

Golden Ocean could also realise value through the deals because its market capitalisation was currently lower than the net asset value of its ships.

“It makes sense to sell assets,” he said.

Mr Fredriksen told the Financial Times in June that he had several billions of dollars in cash ready to invest in struggling shipping companies.

Mr Billung insisted, however, that the recent deals were unconnected with Mr Fredriksen’s personal wealth.

“John Fredriksen is chairman of the board of Golden Ocean; he owns 40 per cent and he controls it,” he said. “Obviously, I wouldn’t do this transaction if he was not in favour of it. But he doesn’t have a personal direct involvement.”

Golden Ocean, one of the world’s biggest listed dry bulk shipowners, agreed in June to sell Knightsbridge the Golden Future for $72m and in late September agreed to sell it the Golden Zhejiang for $65.5m. After the debt associated with the ships had been repaid, net proceeds were reinvested in Knightsbridge shares.
Golden Ocean (GOGL)
Knightsbridge Tankers (VLCCF)(GOGL 10%)
Sea Team Management (GOGL 25%)