Athens: In the bulk trades in 2014 Spyros Capralos has clearly been the shipowner newsmaker of the year. The chairman of Star Bulk Carriers now presides over the largest US-listed dry bulk shipowner with a fleet of 103 ships – including newbuildings – following mergers and acquisitions with Oceanbulk and Excel Maritime, aided by its largest shareholder Oaktree Capital. With consolidation the name of the game at the moment for private equity’s binge in shipping, Star Bulk is leading the way. Its market cap is now around $1bn.
“Mergers are difficult, but possible,” says Capralos, a burly character who represented Greece in water polo at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. Star Bulk was already managing Oceanbulk’s ships prior to merging, while the Excel deal Capralos describes as “more natural” since Star Bulk bought the fleet and not the business. “The deal was in shares not cash which was good as there was not too much financial strain,” he relates.
“Right now bulk is still at a low part of the cycle,” Capralos admits. Nevertheless, with iron ore prices down, Capralos thinks in China there will be a significant substitution of local iron ore for imports in the offing. Also on China, Capralos touches on the long running valemax saga – the giant bulkers built by Brazilian miner Vale that look increasingly likely to be allowed entry to China as part of a deal with state run shipping lines. “Of course valemaxes impact our business,” Capralos admits, “but it is a reality and we have to get on with it.”
As it expands, Star Bulk is also looking to beef up its global network. To this end, Capralos reveals to Maritime CEO, the company will open a chartering office in Singapore before the end of this year. [26/09/14]