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Express Holding: Italy’s newest shipping platform

Express Holding is the latest financial player to enter the shipping industry in Italy, promising to operate in the market with a different approach.

“We don’t act as the traditional NPL managers are used to do. We are an innovative shipping platform as we look at financial exposures capable of giving us a majority share of the company to be restructured. No minority stakes are considered. We look also at the goodwill of the business and not only the asset value and we prefer to invest in niche markets,” says the CEO, Paolo Favilla.

He is also founding partner of the financial advisory firm KT Finance and has some past experience in shipping since he was top manager and shareholder of Aldo Grimaldi’s Grandi Navi Veloci and Grimaldi Holding.

This new phase in the maritime transport business started with the acquisition of the Savona-based liquid and chemical tanker specialist Finbeta, which has a fleet of five vessels and was rescued from a non-performing loan of over €60m ($68m) with Banca Carige. The company is now 95% controlled through Chemtank (the remaining 5% stake remained in the hands of Luca and Alessandra Bertani, members of the founding family) but Express Holding in the recent past also purchased a further two bulk carriers, the supramax Iris Express and the handysize Apuana D.

“Our idea would be to use Finbeta, which is currently looking at two vessels in Turkey to renovate its fleet, as a new investment platform for other assets or companies active in the liquid bulk market to be purchased,” Favilla says, adding: “With Express Holding we would be ready to make a similar deal in the dry bulk in 2020.”

Describing the business model adopted, Express Holding’s top man highlights that the ideal approach would be to find companies in financial difficulties but with a strong reputation and commercial position in small markets as is the case of Finbeta in the Baltic Sea. When possible, the company prefers to maintain the same top management and to get it restructured and with no debt and headed by a shipowner.

Favilla thinks that banks do not have the skill to directly manage fleets and the restructurings take too many years.

“The consequence is that time passes, fleets become aged and there is a loss of value either for the company and for the lender. NPLs’ management created a sort of new clearing house between finance and business and it’s exactly in that space that we see space for a new platform as Express Holding intends to be. We want to avoid that companies like Finbeta, well structured and positioned on their markets, have no choice but closing down or seeing all the assets liquidated,” Favilla concludes.

This article first appeared in Maritime CEO magazine. Splash readers can access the full magazine for free online by clicking here.

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