View from City Road: Tanker boom on the horizon

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A boom in tanker values is looming if the recent flood of new equity issues by shipping companies is any guide. Hard on the heels of money-raising moves by Smedvig and Fred Olsen in Norway and the Bermuda-based London & Overseas Freighters, Bona Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of the Norwegian Leif Hoegh, is planning a dollars 120m offering next month under the guidance of SG Warburg

The money will be used by Bona to pick up good-quality second- hand vessels in the medium size tanker market whose values have been hammered by the slump in profitability in recent years. Bona's own vessels have typically more than halved in value since 1989.

But the sky could be brightening. Scrapping of the surplus and ageing tonnage built in the mid- Seventies boom could remove more than a fifth of the world fleet by 1996, while the depressed level of new orders may expand it by only 12 per cent, Warburg says.

Freight rates, currently at a six- year low, could be back to peak 1991 levels by the mid-Nineties, giving a boost to second-hand values and narrowing the discount of shipping shares to their net asset values. Such hopes have driven some Nordic shares 75 per cent higher this year.

Scrapping of old capacity may not run as high as expected, but Nortankers, a fund set up in 1989 to invest in tankers, foundered last year because its over-large vessels were not considered to be up to scratch.