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Norway’s top owners are busier than ever

The retirement age in Norway is 62. No one seems to have informed John Fredriksen or Arne Blystad.

John Fredriksen, the world’s most famous shipowner, turned 73 on May 10, an age where most people might choose to ease up a little. However, Norway’s richest man shows no sign of slowing down, indeed the first five months of this year have been among his busiest ever.

Fredriksen (pictured) indicated earlier this year that he will stay in the day-to-day business of shipping for years to come, vowing to see through the restructuring of his troubled rig unit, Seadrill. Fredriksen has gone on the record to say Seadrill has been his most complicated transaction he has been involved in during his half century in shipping.

Despite his advancing age, Fredriksen, who claims to still be working 18 hours a day, has been making waves in most sectors in shipping this year, repeatedly trying to snap up VLCC rival DHT Holdings, agreeing to merge his OSV unit Deep Sea Supply (see next page) while also on the hunt for distressed dry bulk assets, something that saw his firm Golden Ocean snap up the 14 bulkers belonging to Greece’s Quintana Shipping in March.

“Retirement is not an option for me, at least for the next three to five years,” Fredriksen told the Financial Times in February.

Eleven years Fredriksen’s junior, Arne Blystad, another famous name in Norwegian shipping, technically became a pensioner this January, but is just as active as ever. With a former Fredriksen high flier by his side in the form of Herman Billung, Blystad has been among the most aggressive buyers of bargain bulkers in the past year via his unit, Songa Bulk.

By the end of April Songa Bulk’s hastily assembled fleet of 10 ships, bought for $169.95m, was already worth $190.6m, according to data from Clarksons Platou Securities. Songa Bulk is expected to swoop for many more ships in the coming months.

Elsewhere, Norwegian shipping bade farewell to another line – Aurora LPG snapped up by Andreas Sohmen-Pao’s BW LPG. Norway knows BW well; it was Sohmen-Pao’s father, Helmut Sohmen, who bought out Bergesen in 2003.

With much consolidation happening across the LPG sector another Norwegian gas player took action to avoid any aggressive takeover.  In May a group including AS Clipper and the Steensland family took gas shipowner Solvang private.  Solvang’s 18 ships are a mix of ethylene carriers, LPG ships and VLGCs. The company is chaired by Michael Steensland-Brun.

This article first appeared in the latest issue of Maritime CEO magazine which is being distributed at Nor-Shipping this week. Splash readers can access the full magazine for free online by clicking here.

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