Wilh. Wilhelmsen: Further acquisitions eyed


Oslo: Ahead of next week’s Nor-Shipping gathering Maritime CEO catches up with one of the rising stars in the Norwegian maritime universe, Thomas Wilhelmsen. He only turns 40 next year and yet he is already at the apex of the family firm, as ceo of Wilh. Wilhelmsen Holding ASA, a diverse group that includes the world’s largest car carrying fleet, a global ship services offering and an increasing appetite for offshore investments.
With strong cash reserves Wilh. Wilhelmsen is looking at further ship acquisitions following its recent two plus two order for large car carriers at Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries, taking its confirmed car carrier orderbook to nine ships representing around 20% of the world car carrier orderbook in terms of capacity.
“We are well positioned to benefit from the growth potential in the markets in which we operate,” Wilhelmsen says. The company is already the world’s largest car and roro carrier with a 24% market share.
“Although volumes have been down the past few quarters we expect them to stabilise over the coming months,” he says, adding: “Looking in to the future, the underlying growth potential for transportation of cars and high and heavy cargo is positive. We will continue to actively optimise and adjust our tonnage to market demand.”
In the car carrier segment the group has two well known brands, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics and EUKOR Car Carriers.
“The strong long term sentiment in the market also means that we need to secure new tonnage,” Wilhelmsen says.
Over on the maritime services side of the group, there has been, Wilhelmsen admits, a slowdown in revenues symptomatic of the tough time facing many owners. “However,” says the boss of one of Norway’s most famous maritime firms, “I am proud to see that we have kept our market share and that top line is growing albeit slower than we would like to see.” 
Wilhelmsen’s third and final business strand is its holding and investment segment in which attention has very much turned to the energy sector of late, a move that has seen it buy into NorSea among others recently.
“Offshore activities are expected to remain high, driving demand for supply base development and logistics services both in Norway and abroad,” Wilhelmsen says.
Since Europe’s most important maritime event in 2013 is due to kick off next week in Oslo an interview with one of the nation’s most blue chip maritime firms makes for the perfect opportunity for Maritime CEO to question what more the Norwegian government could be doing to support shipping.
Although the current Norwegian tonnage tax system is “more or less” in line with other similar systems, Wilhelmsen says, the group decided in 2008 not to enter the new tonnage tax regime. The basis for the decision was related to the “predictability and sustainability” of the new regime, he says.
“Stable frame conditions – also for topics other than tax such as environmental regulations – are necessary to create a level playing field for companies competing on the global arena,” the shipping tycoon says. Moreover, Wilhelmsen reckons the government must also take other tax issues into account.
“As many shipping companies are family owned,” he concludes, “favourable wealth and inheritance taxes are also important issues if our government expects companies and shipping families to continue to be located in Norway.”  [31/05/13]
NEED TO KNOW:  Wilh. Wilhelmsen
With more than 150 years of experience this family controlled company is among the most recognized Norwegian shipping companies around. Company is split into three parts. Shipowning division includes Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, EUKOR Car Carrier and Glovis. The services side of the business includes shipmanagement, port agent and technical solutions offerings while its investment portfolio is increasingly focused on the offshore segment. 

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