NEPTUNE ORIENT LINES SELLS TANKER ARM TO MISC
Neptune Orient Lines, the money-losing Singaporean shipping group, will sell its tanker arm American Eagle Tankers to Malaysia International Shipping Corp. Bhd. for $445 million in cash.
In a related development, Neptune Orient Lines requested on Tuesday that trading of its shares on the Singaporean stock market be suspended for a day, before announcing the sale.
The sale is subject to the approval of Neptune Orient Lines’ shareholders. The purchase price is subject to adjustment on a dollar-to-dollar basis for the profits earned from Feb. 8 to the closing date. Malaysia International Shipping will increase the price paid for the tanker shipping subsidiary if it achieves “certain performance milestones over the next two years,” Neptune Orient Lines said.
The sale of the tanker subsidiary will alleviate the burden of Neptune Orient Lines’ $2.55 billion of borrowings. The group said that the sale would “reduce its debt burden, with net gearing cut by approximately half.”
“This is a strategic move that will allow us to focus on our core container transportation and logistics businesses, APL and APL Logistics, while at the same time strengthening our balance sheet and unlocking value for shareholders,” said Cheng Wai Keung, chairman of Neptune Orient Lines.
The tanker shipping subsidiary operates 29 Aframax tankers and two very large crude carriers, principally in the Gulf of Mexico/Atlantic basin.
The decision to divest follows a six-month review by Neptune Orient Lines of its portfolio of activities. The group added that if the sale is approved, it will provide a “sizable” capital gain for the group.
Tanker shipping has been the only profitable activity of Neptune Orient Lines, which reported a record group deficit of $330 million for 2002 because of losses from container shipping and logistics.
Neptune Orient Lines is the parent company of the container carrier APL, of APL Logistics and of tanker shipping businesses. In 2002, the tanker shipping arm of the Singaporean group earned an operating profit before interest and tax of $9 million on revenue of $343 million.
Last October, Neptune Orient Lines said that it had received offers from parties interested in purchasing American Eagle Tankers, and was considering the future of this business.