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Wednesday, 24 April 19
SHIPPING MARKET INSIGHT - IS THIS A BANKERS' MARKET? - INTERMODAL
IntermodalOver the last 10 years, many of the traditional and top lending banks have made the decision to either downsize their portfolios or even exit shipping. According to Petrofin, Top 40 shipping banks’ lending has fallen since 2008 by 25%, whilst at the same time the world fleet has grown by 28%.  On top of this, out of the banks that have decided to stay in the game, not all of them have the strength, the budget and the competitive terms to do so. As a result, the availability of financing for small-medium size companies has become a scarce, hence a luxury good. In other words, even when there is available financing for these companies, its cost is really prohibitive. 
 
Apart from the banks’ endogenous and structural issues, their shipping departments also need to decide where to allocate their budget. In an era of growing LNG demand, numerous large shipping firms invest in the very capital intensive LNG carriers. Most of the large banks are there to support their very good clients. However, this means that a big percentage of their budget (and resources in general) end up to the LNG carriers’ financing, i.e. not much budget left for the remaining sectors/shipping projects. So, when these banks are left with a limited budget to spend, they become very selective and of course their pricing goes up as the list of the waiting finance projects is significant. 
 
But what about the alternative ways of financing for the small and medium size companies? Asian leasing has indeed filled part of the gap that was created with the traditional banks’ exit, however, again this is available for owners with larger fleets and bigger ticket sizes. Public markets have been quiet regarding shipping in general; bond markets again require significant size. Therefore, the small companies are left with the option of the so called alternative financing. Private equity and hedge funds do have the funds to invest, but this only happens when they get the return of capital that they require; given that this most of the times is a double digit figure, then the capital cost for the small/medium ship owners increases dramatically. 
 
There are quite a few new European banks that have joined ship financing – whose pricing sits in between the one of the traditional banks and that of leasing – however, their current budget is nowhere near to filling the gap that was left after the departure of the big banks.   
 
Therefore, small-medium size shipping companies struggle to find competitive finance terms. Someone may argue that this had always been the case, however, in today’s ship finance market it is evident that the financing of small-medium size shipping companies is not the banks’ first priority, which should not be the case given the performance of such companies during recent years. Indeed, many small-medium size companies have proved their top quality and professionalism by not only surviving the crisis but also by getting back into expansion mode. There are many ship-owning companies falling into this category. Indicatively, only in Greek shipping there are more than 150 companies that own 3-15 bulk carriers, of more than 28,000 dwt and younger than 17 years old.  A big percentage of these companies are long standing and solid companies; however, face the above finance issues. 
 
This is the clientele that will provide the bank with projects of good credit quality and at the right pricing and therefore should be the one attracting the attention of ship financiers if they wish to make their business efficient and dynamic again.
By George Laios
Deputy CEO, Intermodal Group

Compiled by:
Intermodal Research & Valuations


Analysts:
Ms Eva Tzima

George Panagopoulos


Disclaimer and legal disclosure: For any further queries please do not hesitate to contact our Research & Valuations Department. The information contained in this report has been obtained from various sources, as reported in the market. Intermodal Shipbrokers Co. believes such information to be factual and reliable without making guarantees regarding its accuracy or completeness. Whilst every care has been taken in the production of the above review, no liability can be accepted for any loss or damage incurred in any way whatsoever by any person who may seek to rely on the information and views contained in this material. This report is being produced for the internal use of the intended recipients only and no reproducing is allowed, without the prior written authorization of Intermodal Shipbrokers Co.

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