Lloyd’s List, The Intelligence – Dealing with China’s invisible hand

by Tom Leander

The state is an invasive force in strategic industries. Tom Leader asks what lessons can shipowners draw to guide their business in this essential nation to shipping.

Want to buy a valemax, anyone? Ponta da Madeira, a 400,000 dwt valemax vessel 90% complete, is up for sale at STX Dalian shipyard in China. Vale itself doesn’t want the newbuilding, at least now. It belonged to South Korean dry bulk operator Pan Ocean, which ordered it for an estimated $120m more than four years ago.

But Pan Ocean filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and cancelled the contract more than a year later, throwing it back on the strapped shipyard, which itself is amid a workout. Clarksons lists its ownership as “unknown”. Prospective buyers stop by from time to time, discreetly kicking the tyres.

One of these was Soo Cheon Lee, co-founder of well-known Asian fixed income specialist SC Lowy, an experienced adviser and financier in distressed shipping plays. SC Lowy was the mastermind behind the workout and fi nancing that led to Korea Line’s emergence from bankruptcy and eventual sale. More recently, it became the largest creditor to Pan Ocean before that stripped-down company was sold to South Korea’s Harim Group.

SC Lowy snatched up a bulker belonging to Taiwan’s Nobu Su, and sold the ship at a profit. In other words, Mr Lee is hardly afraid of risking good money on bargain assets washed up in the wake of bankruptcies. And Ponta da Madeira reportedly is being offered for $30m. Full cover story – page 12.

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