I’m more involved in this year’s Nor-Shipping than normal, helping Jannis Kostoulas get his first Oslo Mare Forum up and running today. What I can’t help noticing — and alright, I admit maybe it’s just my banking background – but aren’t the organisers missing a trick with this edition of the 54-year-old show? The strongest theme being marketed is all about green and blue shipping, followed by innovation and digitalisation. I get that Nor-Shipping always tries to position itself ahead of the maritime trend curve, but surely greater focus on one of the country’s greatest strengths over the past decade – finance – would not have gone amiss. Think about it, outside of Chinese leasing, what has propped up shipping investment strategies more in recent years than Oslo institutions? Norway has been a saviour for global shipowners seeking capital without being beholden to the small print of Chinese lessors.
The financing landscape of Norwegian shipping-related banks has of course changed irrevocably lately. From first quarter statistics this year it seem that it’s just Nordea now operating in the international bank syndicate market.
DNB has been hugely reducing its exposure over the past five years, while interestingly, Hans Christian Kjelsrud, Nordea’s very successful shipping head for many years, has jumped ship to SEB, a Swedish bank rapidly rising up the ship finance charts.
In terms of other Oslo ship finance brands, there is of course Pareto Bank and Maritime & Merchant Bank who are both more focused on project finance for the KS/DIS markets. DNB, Nordea and now DVB have withdrawn from the project market, focusing now on corporate lending to bigger customers.
Still, the real saviour for finance for shipping has not been Scandinavian banks but the Norwegian capital markets and what is very interesting is these projects are joined by a crowd of very knowledgeable people who have a long shipping background. I’d say it’s actually unique how deep the investor base is from shipping families in and around Oslo.
The Oslo Børs has done fantastically well, a model for other stock exchanges keen to get shipping involvement.
It’s an amazingly convenient process to get onto the first rung, the Merkur Market, it can take less than a week, followed by moving on to the OTC then onto a full listing. It’s an easy process and you deal with intelligent, knowledgeable investors unlike what some Greeks say about the US market, which by the way has been closed for shipping IPOs for five years now.
There’s also a very deep bond market in Oslo, both for secured and unsecured offerings, that is a continuously nice and liquid market.
There are some very high class arrangers in this market including brand names such as Clarkson Platou, Pareto, Fearnleys, NRP, Cleaves and Arctic who all can tap big players to buy in to capital-raising exercises – both for bonds and equity.
This is a market that moves fast; blink and you miss an opportunity. I was invited to a very good equity project the other day and it was closed in just 24 hours.
Keep your eyes peeled when in Oslo this week, there’s plenty to buy into.
This article first appeared in Maritime CEO magazine. Splash readers can access the full magazine for free online by clicking here.